Glucksman Ireland House, NYU

The Fifth Province: County Societies in Irish America

Where We Sported and Played

Link to the full photograph: Football match, New York vs. Mayo, April 1932. John T. Ridge.

Football match, New York vs. Mayo, April 1932. John T. Ridge.

Sport was the organizing impulse that brought various Irish societies together in 1904 to form the Irish Counties Athletic Union, which subsequently became the United Irish Counties’ Association. Since that time, counties have fielded football, hurling, and camogie teams to foster Gaelic games in America.

Even after the formation of the Gaelic Athletic Association of New York in 1914, a symbiotic relationship existed between Irish county societies, their members, and the teams that bore county names in fierce competition. In addition to the annual GAA schedule, field days became a highlight of the summer calendar, with action-packed programs of games and athletic contests where county pride was at stake. A match between New York, a specially selected group of the best local county players, and a visiting team from Ireland was guaranteed to bring out the crowds.

An equally robust and indispensible element of all county activities was music. From singing the Irish and American national anthems to dancing popular foxtrots, no gathering was complete without a lively infusion of music. Some societies established their own bands – fife and drums in the early years, bagpipes later on – others frequently showcased musicians from home at county balls and dances.

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