Joe Prunty, who is originally from Ballincurry in Drumlish, was the guest of honour at the New York GAA annual dinner in New York City recently – an acknowledgement of his many years of service to the sport for expats living in the Big Apple.
“I arrived here in 1970 and for the past 29 years I’ve been working as a building manager on Park Avenue,” Joe says. “There are five members of my family living over here, and I have a sister living over in Liverpool.” And although there are no longer any family members living in the Longford area, Joe still makes a point of returning home each summer: “I head home every August to catch up with some old friends and to keep an eye on how Fr Manning Gaels are doing.”
Despite only meeting his wife Kathleen after he made the move to New York, Joe reveals that they lived just a short distance from each other back home. “Kathleen is one of the McEvoys from Ballinalee, so we lived just a 10-minute drive from each other,” he laughs. “We have two children – Laura, who is studying at Georgetown, and Joseph who is attending Fordham Prep in The Bronx.”
Having originally been involved as an officer with the Longford GAA team in the city, Joe had to switch allegiance when the club was wound-up. “Unfortuntely the Longford club over here disbanded some years back, so I got involved with Leitrim GAA here in New York because they’re our next-door neighbours at home,” he explains. “I’ve held many offices with them over the past 20 years – including secretary, treasurer and delegate. You name it, I’ve done it!”
Joe was honoured by the Leitrim club last year, when he was presented with the John McInerney Memorial Award. It came at a time when he decided to step aside from official duties, for the moment at least. “I stepped aside this year because I thought it was time to give some of the younger people a chance to get involved in those roles,” he says. Joe is justly proud of the team’s achievements during the time he’s been associated with them. “Leitrim have won the New York Championship for the past three years in a row and this year they’re going for four,” he smiles. “There’s a lot of talent in the side at the moment.”
He notes poignantly, though, that much of the talent Leitrim and other clubs in New York currently have at their disposal comes at the expense of clubs back home in Ireland. “Every Thursday I go to the meetings to find maybe 10 or 12 new kids transferring to us, and many of them have just emigrated,” he admits. “Unfortuntaely, it’s a trend that will probably continue for another while.”
Before the conversation ends, Joe confirms that Longford once again has a presence in Gaelic games in New York: “A new Longford GFC is competing at junior level over here now. They’re only in their second season, but hopefully they’ll continue to improve. I’m always available to give advice to them whenever they ask for it.”