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Is promoting GAA in America a good idea?

From Odhrán Crumley 

Emigration is now rife on the island of Ireland with Gaels spread all over the world. History has dictated that America is one of the most popular destinations for those setting sail from the Emerald Isle.

Every summer the United States receives an influx of Irish students on J1 visas, footballer and hurlers going stateside to make a few pound and play our games. Most notably, Diarmuid Connolly opting not to turn out for Dublin instead going to Boston to claim the game for the summer months.

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With the increased numbers playing abroad in tournaments such as the Asian Gaelic Games experienced in recent years by this writer the numbers playing our games outside of Ireland is startling.

This has opened the opportunity for the GAA to promote the game of hurling abroad to the pleasure of some and the displeasure of others. In recent times, Kilkenny have took on Galway in a glamour friendly in Sydney. Boston has hosted the Fenway Classic which had Limerick and Cork contest the final.

Gaelic Life columnist, Shane Elliot in his piece this past week has argued that the GAA should look at within before looking outside.

“The is not strong throughout Ireland and while I am all for the spreading of the hurling gospel on the global stage, I think our priority should be getting our own house in order and investing in a few missionaries closer to home.”

Elliot would look at addressing the abundantly clear discrepancy between hurling in the South and hurling in the North with the divide ever growing.

Derry hurler, Naoise Waldron argues the case for pilgrimages in the USA while speaking to Ronan Scott in this week’s Gaelic Life. Waldron travelled to Montana in the year 2013, eager to keep playing hurling while he was an aspiring teacher.

Here the former Ballygunner hurler actively explored and first hand experienced the potential for the game to grow in the United States, especially in Montana.

“The amount of Irish history in Montana is crazy for the population of about a million people in the whole state. I don’t know how many of them are O’Sullivan’s, McCarthy’s or Keoghs.”

But to Waldron’s despair they didn’t have a team and here he was left to establish the game with real success the University of Montana winning four National Collegiate Gaelic Athletic Association Championships, the only college in North America to hold four.

One clear point emerges from this, that the hunger and appetite and potential to grow the game new territories is alive and well in Ireland’s diaspora.

Yes, we have a clear divide at home, the game is not played with any real gusto in parts of our own land. In those lands the game some would argue does not receive the promotion, funding or publicity that is afforded to ventures abroad.

But should this stop us promoting the game in the USA where missionaries such as Naoise Waldron have stumbled across a real market for the game?

This debate will continue to rage like an Olympic flame, it is hard to know which viewpoint is best. Ideally, we would grow the game here alongside abroad and have it thrives in the thirty two counites of Ireland but maybe this writer is merely a dreamer…

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