The Roscommon man’s name has become synonymous with New York GAA. He’s one of the Association’s most dedicated activists and he maintains a massive interest in the primrose and blue.
Terry Connaughton is a bit of a rare breed in that he hails from Roscommon but from a hurling background. “I come from Athleague”, he explains, “and in my time there was no football there. But there was hurling from morning till dark.”
And so it came to pass that the young Terry spent many happy pre-emigration years in the colours of the Athleague hurlers. He captained the Roscommon minor team and played for the seniors in 1951 and 1952. In 1952, he was on the Roscommon junior team that recorded a sensational win over Galway, the first time Roscommon had humbled their more illustrious neighbours in 46 years.
When Terry emigrated to New York in 1952, he decided not to leave his heritage behind. In the Big Apple, he has thrown himself into Gaelic games, forging a reputation for himself as one of the city's most ardent gaels, making quite a splash on both the playing and administration front. Terry had the honour of playing for the New York All Stars team against Wexford in 1957. Towards the end of his hurling career, he began to get involved in administration. Terry Connaughton was Vice-President of the New York Board in 1971, 72 and 73. He was President in 1974 and again in 1988 and 89. He’s also a former County board PRO and is the man credited with getting ladies football up and running in New York.
In September 1991, the Athleague native called the very first meeting to organise ladies football in New York and the game has completely taken off since. He acted as Chairman of the New York ladies Board for the first four years of its existence and invested enormous time and effort into developing the game. This has certainly paid off as today ladies football is arguably more popular in New York than even any county at home in Ireland. Amazingly, a total of NINE clubs exist - how many counties in Ireland can claim that? Hardly surprisingly, Terry has been named honorary President of the New York ladies board.
In his capacity as Vice-Chairman of the senior football division, he came home to Ireland recently for the New York versus Roscommon Connacht senior football championship clash. Who was he cheering for? Well, you’ll have to ask him yourself! I couldn’t put such a genial individual on the spot!
Despite devoting so much energy into the betterment of the Irish national game Stateside, Terry has also managed to make a real success of his professional life. He spent two years in the US army and spent 20 years in the New York City Police Department.
In 1979, he took over the Riverdale Steakhouse in west Bronx, a bar and restaurant which he still runs successfully today, alongside his wife Anne, who comes from Oldcastle in Meath. Terry and Anne have five children, Terry, Eileen, Mary-Anne, Eamon and Donal.
The Riverdale Steakhouse employs 20 people, most of whom are Irish and it's generally been this way since he took over back in 1979. Quite an achievement as we all know and if you ask Terry how it's going? he'll tell you quietly that he thinks he's getting the hang of it! Terry has undoubtedly given a lot to New York GAA. But what has he got back? “A lot of enjoyment. It’s been a great time. I’ve really enjoyed being part of New York GAA. It’s been a challenge but hasn’t been all hard work. I remember particularly the trips to Australia and New Zealand in 1973 with the football and hurling teams. Those were great times.”Terry says he’s going to remain involved in the cross-Atlantic GAA scene and insists he has no regrets about ever leaving his native sod: “When I left, I had no other option. At the time, there was no employment in Ireland and you had to emigrate.That’s what all my peers did and that’s what I did. I’ve never lost touch with my Irish roots, though, and I still return four or five times a year.”
“The GAA is coming along in leaps and bounds. It’s ran in a thoroughly professional manner and its popularity is growing all the time. The tv coverage is phenomenal. We have live games here through Setanta on 30 Sunday mornings every year and we show them on the big screen in The Steakhouse. It creates a great atmosphere and it’s like being back home.
“The Association is moving in the right direction. The one thorny issue is whether or not players deserve to get paid for their efforts. When you look at the crowds attending the matches, you’d imagine there’d be enough money there to pay them. I believe some form of professionalism will have to come in eventually.”
Terry Connaughton, himself, a consummate professional in everything he does.