Wearing the Cavan Jersey in New York
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
A 29-hour flight or six days on a boat? Which would you choose? Cavan picked the former and Kerry the latter. And the Breifne men made the correct call judging by the outcome, the men in the blue Cavan jerseys making history.
We're talking of course about the 1947 All Ireland Football Final played in the Polo Grounds in New York, the only time the All Ireland Final has been played outside Ireland. At the time, legendary commentator Micheal O’Hehir called it the ‘greatest chapter in Irish sporting history’.
Cavan - A Strong GAA Tradition
-Ballyconnell was the first recorded affiliated club in Ulster GAA - they played their first game 7 March 1886.
-Cavan camogie was traditionally strong with forty clubs recorded in the county at centenary Year
-The Anglo Celt cup presented to Ulster council by O'Hanlon family who owned the Anglo Celt newspaper published in Cavan.
-Cavan have won the All Ireland Football Championship on five occasions 1933, 1935, 1947, 1948 and 1952.
-Handballer Paul Brady is one of Cavan’s greatest GAA players, a dual star in football and handball. In handball he has won an unprecedented 5 World Handball titles, 11 All-Ireland Senior titles (including 9 in a row), 10 US National Championship titles, and a clutch of pro circuit victories.
-In 2017 following a period of rebuilding, Cavan hurlers will re-enter the Lory Meagher Cup. It’s fantastic to see the Breffni hurlers back in action.
The Anniversary of the Famine
The game was played to commemorate the anniversary of the Great Famine, and recognize and mark the contribution of the Irish in America. In truth Gaelic games had been flagging a little among the Diaspora in the USA. To take the match out of Ireland was a formidable undertaking at a time when travel was much less simple than it is today. Clare's Canon Hamilton had lobbied the GAA for years to host the match in the US. The Powers That Be relented in 1947 putting in train a logistical challenge of gargantuan proportions. [Incidentally this the same Canon Hamilton who oversaw the design of the Clare GAA badge as a unique 'trademark' for the county that remains to this day.]
Cavan Fly While Kerry Took the Boat
The Cavan men flew to New York, the trip taking 29 hours and included a stop over in the Azores of all place. Maybe they’d had enough of boats up and down the Shannon, we don’t know but they made the choice to fly rather than sail. One Cavan player Owen Roe McGovern, must have been an older Breiffni version of Flight refusenik Dennis Bergkamp. Owen Roe took the boat and upon arrival found the heat oppressive.
Mean while back in the Azores… the thought of a squad of Cavan men at loose on the tropical paradise of the Azores is mind boggling, meandering among fishing villages, watching whales breach in the blue ocean, smelling the blue hydrangea. It must have had reminded them of the green hills round Killeshandra and Cootehill, and Lough Oughter and the Shannon River.
RTE’s First Live Overseas Broadcast
The match was RTE’s first ever live overseas broadcast and they sent Michael O'Hehir to New York to cover the game. They were only able to book a line from 3:30 to 5.00pm to broadcast the game live and with the throw in delayed by 15 minutes listeners could hear O’Hehir appealing for more time on the line as the game approached his conclusion and he ran out of time. Thankfully someone in the telegraphic business was listening in and gave him enough leeway to finish the game. The arrangements up to hours before the game had been shrouded in confusion to the extent that many fans at home thought it wouldn’t be broadcast.
Turning Up the Heat
The heat was intense, many of the players donned caps for the game as can be seen on the excellent video footage. When they stepped off the plane into the Big Apple the heat was unbelievable and it made playing conditions very difficult. The quality of the game was good considering the pitch conditions. A bone hard small pitch that was totally unsuited for a game of football, it included a baseball mound at one end which the players had to play over and around.
A Million Shaking Men
The match threw in after 8:30 Irish time. No twitter, Facebook or Snapchat. Just a million people in Ireland gathered around their wireless radios “The greatest chapter in Irish sporting history came to an end.”
A Fairytale in New York
The story of Cavan’s epic journey and success in 1947 is brilliantly captured by Paul Fitzpatrick in his book A Fairytale in New York. Writing in the foreword, All Ireland winning manager Eugene McGee writes “The whole idea of playing an All-Ireland in New York was deemed preposterous at the start but ended up turning into a fairytale – one of the greatest in the GAA's history. Finding real and diverse characters in this book was scarcely a difficult task for the author because their memory has never faded in their native place.
The most talked about jersey of the weekend, the new Cavan GAA Jersey is now available in-store and online today!