Places that Matter

Gaelic Park

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Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
Gaelic Park, 2012, photo by Julia Hirsch
photo courtesy the Irish Echo
Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
Sports arena and gathering place enjoyed by Irish immigrants
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Place Matters Profile

By Deenah Vollmer

Gaelic Park ties Irish Americans to their cultural history. Located in the Kingsbridge neighborhood of the northeast Bronx, Gaelic Park is a gathering place for Irish immigrants and Irish Americans. Serving as the Bronx home for the Gaelic Athletic Association of Greater New York (NY-GAA), the park still hosts Irish football and hurling matches every weekend. West of Broadway on the north side of 240th Street, near Manhattan College, the park features a playing field, dance hall, pub and restaurant, and for over 70 years has held sporting events, dances, weddings, meetings, political rallies, and concerts featuring both old and new Irish music.

"When you enter Gaelic Park you are neither in Ireland or America, but somewhere in between," writes doctoral student Sarah Ellen Brady. Brady, who is writing her thesis at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts on Gaelic Park's cultural significance to the Irish community in New York, is quoted in Cahi O'Doherty’s article "Getting Inside the GAA" (The Irish Echo, 26 July 2006) as saying, "Because it's in the Bronx--and in a way, it’s not in the Bronx--it creates a space where things can happen. I mean, yes it was just a pub, and a field, but it was also a theater pit, and an arena--it can become all of these things, depending on the need and the occasion. No other ethnicity in New York has a cultural space that is anything remotely like it."

The elevated rail line that encloses the field on the north side creates a distinctly New York backdrop to a field that could otherwise be anywhere. The arena mimics a traditional Irish stadium with a pub and restaurant directly adjacent to the playing field. For years, families have traveled from New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey to attend the weekend festivities and sports games at the park. "Every single Sunday from June to October, my parents carried, dragged or pushed their seven children to the Irish football games in Gaelic Park," Julie White wrote in the Riverdale Press on October 18, 1984.

"If you were visiting Irish from 'home,' first you saw Gaelic Park, then St. Patrick's and, if you had time, the Empire State Building,” White also wrote. Gaelic Park was New York's biggest cultural meeting point and place to socialize. The park is one of the only places in the United States for traditional Irish games.