Making It In America

"It's not all about where you came from in Ireland, it's about where you live now!"

The final episode of the TG4 documentary series airs tonight.

IMG_0302 GAA USA is presented by Dara Ó Cinnéide TG4 TG4

“I got to see a little bit of a VHS tape and I went, ‘Where has this been all my life?’.”


OVER THE LAST three weeks, TG4 have placed the history of the GAA in the United States under the microscope. Their brilliant and insightful documentary series ‘GAA USA’ is wrapped up tonight at 9.30pm.

Presenter and former Kerry All-Ireland winning captain Dara Ó Cinnéide revealed that they’ve got plenty plaudits so far.

TG4 / YouTube

“It’s been unbelievable really. I think they’re very glad TG4 that they took it on. The BAI funded it and it was a story that was there to be told. Judging it on Twitter reaction, text messages and that kind of stuff, I think people have been very impressed with it.

“The first programme was way back, you were going back 200 or 150 years. It was academic, it was inside in libraries. The last episode tonight will probably speak more to what people’s understanding of the game is, it’s about what happened in the last 20 years and what’s likely to happen in the next 20 years.”

Ó Cinnéide outlines when the idea for the programme was first conceived.

“It’s the team behind Seo Sport, the Ó Cualáin brothers from Connemara. We were inside in the canteen one day after a programme and they were talking about how they’d won an IFTA for a documentary ‘Lón sa Spéir’the story of the 11 men in an iconic skyscraper image from New York in 1932. ‘I was saying what we should be doing was the history of the GAA in the United States.’ They said it would be a runner.”

The ex-Kerry star had gained plenty insight into the GAA on Stateside during his own playing career.

“I played in 1996 in a New York final and in 1999 over there. Both years Kerry got knocked out early. When I was playing with Kerry, we got a lot of invites out there for stuff and I would have been part of the squad that played Cavan in New York in 1997.

“My brother spent 12 years in Chicago and Boston, he was playing there. You got to know a lot of people then and it was nice to ring those people up who pointed us in the right direction.”

TG4 / YouTube

Getting the right footage required plenty work. Ó Cinnéide had to take holidays from his day job as a Raidió na Gaeltachta presenter and they split the filming over the course of two years encompassing seven trips across the Atlantic.

The team visited the four traditional GAA strongholds – New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco – and then also went to Philadelphia and Milwaukee. It was a huge task but one they gleaned plenty from.

TG4 screenshot TG4 TG4

“The whole thing is changing,” says Ó Cinnéide. “In the 80′s you’d have say 20 people from Ballincollig and 20 people from Dingle all going out to play together for one club, they’d work together in construction during the week and drink together on a Sunday after a game. That model is growing out of it.

“The standard is never going to be unbelievably good. But the organisation and the social side of it is brilliant. Manhattan Gaels for example are Manhattan-based, they’re professionals and not many of them are based in the construction industry. They’re meeting up, mens’ and womens’ teams training together.

TG4 / YouTube

“The message we’re giving out is that they’re not our games any more. The Americans are curious about them. The fun they’re having with is great. The Milwaukee hurling club is a great story. They’re developing a structure where they bring in adults, have a logistic and tour manager and base themselves on an American sports structure.

“They play pub leagues and are hugely successful in terms of participation. There’s a huge social element and there’s an unbelievable buzz about them. Their membership as well have names that are Germanic, Slavic and Polish, there’s very few Irish names or even names of Irish heritage. It’s very different.”

The final episode of GAA USA is on tonight at 9.30pm with previous episodes available on the TG4 Player.

TG4 / YouTube

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