By Alyssa Velazquez & Samantha Walla, Editor & Staff Writer
One of the last things you see as you look out the window of the one train arriving at its final stop, is the bright green turf and the symbolic “M” of the college, at the center of Gaelic Park’s field.
Home to the Manhattan College Jaspers, Gaelic Park has been apart of the college’s history for decades. Serving as the home field for the Jasper Eleven, Manhattan College’s football team in the mid-1900s, the lacrosse teams for men and women, and the soccer teams for men and women, Gaelic Park has been a place where students can unwind from their weekly academics to cheer on their fellow Jaspers.
One of the most notable and recent moments of Manhattan College sports that occurred at the beloved field includes the women’s soccer team winning a home game against rival Iona in the fall of 2015. This win helped earn the women’s soccer team the number two seed and a 10-4-3 in the MAAC tournament. This was the third time in the program’s 25-year history the team received double digits in the win column of the MAAC tournament.
Athletes from every team understand the symbolic and historic meaning that Gaelic Park holds, not just for the college but for the community surrounding the field. Molly Flores, mid-fielder for the women’s lacrosse team, reflects on what the home field means to her.
“[Gaelic Park] has a rich history and culture that is unique. Our walk out song is the One and Nine by Shilelagh Law, which really gets our team hyped for games because it is about this area of the Bronx… it fills us with pride and really motivates us to do our best.”
Gaelic Park has been apart of the Bronx for decades and has served as an escape for the Irish-American community in the Bronx. Being purchased by the Gaelic Athletic Association, known as the GAA, in 1926, the park became home of Irish sports such as hurling and Gaelic football and events such as concerts and dances that could take place both on field and in the dance hall adjacent to the field.
However, roughly ten years later the GAA was forced to give up the lease because of their declaration of bankruptcy. That is when John “Kerry” O’Donnell and his families and friends took over the lease for about 50 more years.
One of the major events that the park experienced was the “Summer of ’69” concert which featured a blend of old and new Irish music, and stretched across the entire summer of 1969. One of the bands that performed at this concert were the infamous Beach Boys.
The park allowed for a community of people, who were hundreds of miles away from home, escape the chaos of New York City for the weekend and embrace their culture freely with one another. Publisher of The Irish Voice newspaper in the 90s, Niall O’Dowd, describes the field as “a place where the Irish community meets itself. And it’s almost an emotional thing with people, because it is the repository of Irish games.”
The O’Donnell family were the owners of the lease to the field up until 1990 when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had to make the decision of which organization was a better fit for the field; the O’Donnell’s or MC. Some of the concerns that the MTA had was the upkeep of the field because the owners of the lease in 1990 were not able to come up with the funds for renovation.
In an article written by the New York Times on October 12, 1990, the park was described as a “scraggly pitch” with “tired bleachers and a smattering of seats.” It was clear that the condition of the park was not up to par with the MTA’s standards when they later made the decision to award the lease to Manhattan College in hopes that the field would be brought back to life through renovations.
In 1991, Manhattan College was awarded the lease to Gaelic Park by the MTA and ever since then the park has been the official home of outdoor sports for the college.
As the college promised, the park has gone through several renovations, one of the most recent being the renovation of the field which was done over the summer. The new turf and design of the field isn’t the only recent renovation for Gaelic Park. Future projects include the renovation of the locker rooms and bathrooms.
Gaelic Park has been an official part of the college for the past 26 years and has been a part of the Bronx community for 91 years. No matter where people are from, the park is considered home to many students and members of the Bronx community. From the athletes who take the field whenever there’s practice or a home game to the people who attend the festivities, Gaelic Park has and always will be a vital part of the Manhattan College and Bronx community.