As New York battles desperately to get to grips with the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, the resilience and generosity of Longford volunteers has been to the forefront in assisting the city’s heroic frontline nurses.
Longford NY GAA stalwarts Dermot York and Cormac McCormack, and their families, are involved in the preparation and delivery of 100 meals daily to nurses and staff at Lenox Hill hospital.
A native of Creevaghbeg, Ballymahon and partner owner and general manager (GM) at the renowned Pig n Whistle on 36th Street, Cormac explained that the initiative to feed the nurses was Dermot’s brainchild.
“We had food in the Pig n Whistle after we closed down due to the coronavirus. Staff had taken what they wanted and Dermot and I were chatting about it. He brought it up about feeding the nurses and staff at Lenox Hill hospital, which is two blocks from his apartment.
“Dermot started it. He does it three to four times a week and I help out when I can. Siobhan (Dermot’s wife) helps him and my wife, Carissa has cooked cookies for them.”
Cormac says he cannot say enough about or speak highly enough of all the frontline workers and the unbelievable sacrifices they make. “They are the heroes,” he added.
John Collins, from Elphin, Roscommon, is a member of the NY football team and his fiancée, Jessica, works at Lenox Hill, as does Kathleen Devine from Edgeworthstown, a daughter of Longford 1966 National Football League and 1968 Leinster championship medal winner, Jackie.
In an interview, John, highlighted that few people know of Dermot’s support for the Lenox Hill nurses; “It is an incredible act of generosity, hard work and perseverance,” he said.
Dermot and Cormac are not allowed into the hospital due to the risk of the virus. “We wear masks and gloves at all times.
Someone from the nursing staff comes down and meets us at the hospital entrance. We usually feed about 30-35 people at a time,” pointed out Cormac.
He says he considers himself privileged to have friends in NY, like Dermot and Siobhan, and being able to help them, and the amazing staff at Lenox Hill.
He also thanked Sean Spratt and his Carlow East Charity for their assistance with funding for the food that is used.
Cormac also spoke glowingly about the tremendous work of another Longford man and current NY GAA manager, Gerry Fox from Ballinalee, who owns Gerry 's Place in Norwood, NJ, along with Sligo man Gerry McGwynne.
“They are feeding staff in four hospitals between New Jersey and the Bronx,” he revealed.
Cormac said the Longford Association of NY, with Pat Yorke at the helm, have been great, helping out in all capacities as always, and that when someone is in need, they are the first to help, and not just for Longford people.
The deadly Covid-19 has ravaged New York, with thousands of deaths, and Cormac admitted, “Life here has definitely changed since the virus hit and it probably will have changed for good. The city was like a ghost town for the first few weeks. It still is but you definitely see a few more people out and about, all masked up of course.”
He says family life ‘has been surprisingly good’, adding that Carissa gets all the plaudits for keeping them sane and helping their son, Leo, with his schoolwork. “I think he is getting tired looking at us and really wants to get back to school, to his friends and actually see people his own age.”
Sadly, his uncle Tommy McCormack, Ballymahon, died on April 2 and Cormac revealed it was difficult being unable to come home for his funeral owing to Covid-19 restrictions. “Tommy was a big part of our lives and we loved to stay with him and Carmel on our visits home.”
The Pig n Whistle on 36th closed on March 16, the eve of St Patrick’s Day. “We had no choice due to Government restrictions, so it has been strange going in there, with it all shuttered up. We are doing our best to make sure our staff are taken care of and keeping in contact with them I feel is very important.
“Some have been able to get unemployment assistance and others are not so lucky. We set up a GoFundMe page for the staff and have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people from all around the world, so a huge thank you to everyone. People can still donate if they wish, GoFundMe/PignWhistle36th.”
On GAA matters, Cormac commented, “The GAA has been hugely disrupted, rightly so. And I don't see how any football will be played this year, either here in NY or at home. I just can't imagine playing games behind closed doors and definitely not with large crowds.”
Prior to Covid-19, NY were preparing to welcome Galway in the Connacht championship.
“I am lucky to be involved with Gerry (Fox) and Dermot (York) in the NY setup and the team were training very hard, three nights a week. We were looking forward to Galway coming out. Johnny Glynn, from Galway, is also part of the management team along with Leitrim man Sean ‘Barry’ Kelly, Armagh man Johnny McGeeney, Brian Beano’ Henry from Sligo and Marie Geraghty from Galway.
“Anyway with the game postponed, Mr Glynn came up with an idea to raise funds for a local charity, set up in response to Covid-19, to help out people in need who have lost jobs, Slainte2020. So this Saturday, May 2, we (the team and management) will run 1000km in 24 hours, the equivalent of running from Malin Head to Mizen Head and back. Check out www.slainte2020.org/donate”
History was made at GAA Congress earlier this year as New York’s Larry McCarthy was installed as President-elect, successfully seeing off a number of candidates, including Armagh’s Jarlath Burns.
“Larry is a good man,” says Cormac.
“He is all about the GAA. I think he has held every position on the NY board. He's a very smart, well spoken man and will be good for the GAA. No doubt he will be a strong leader and a benefit to the GAA at home, in NY and around the world.”