An Irishman marking a decade living in New York City says he is "immensely proud" of opening three pubs and helping to rejuvenate the Gaelic Football scene in Queens.
Joe Byrne moved to the Empire State from Dublin in 2013 after securing an internship at the American Irish Historical Society and later delivered on his widest dreams.
Picking up on the "young, vibrant, Irish community" in NYC and "a gap" when it came to GAA, Joe teamed up with six other sports enthusiasts to launch O’Donovan Rossa GAA in 2018. The goal was to provide a community-focused club which has now grown to have two men's teams and two ladies' teams.
And it doesn't end there - the 36-year-old opened The Wolfhound in 2016 with friend Rory Murphy, The Wild Goose with friends Eóiny Martin and Jason Darby in 2019, and Jack Diamond's in 2022. Joe has also given fascinating Irish history tours of Manhattan - another string to his bow he hopes to capitalize on.
There had been a GAA team before us called the Astoria Gaels but it stopped running in the mid-2000s," Joe told IrishStar.com. "The club has gained a lot of interest. For years, the model of GAA clubs in New York was to play from the county you're from but there are not as many Irish people coming to the city anymore so we just organize on the basis of, if you're Irish, from Donegal to Dublin, or American, and you live in Queens, you're welcome.
"We have 50 members now and the ladies' team are doing extremely well, too. They started a year after us but have taken the club to new levels in terms of membership and profile so we hope to emulate that in the future.
"A few relationships and businesses have started through the club - that's how I met the lads from The Wild Goose - and that's powerful. I didn't think starting a football team and creating a local Irish outlet would lead to that."
Joe graduated with a degree in Irish history and politics from Ulster University in Co Derry before completing a Master's in Irish history at Queen's University, Belfast. He bartended in Dublin, Belfast, and London on the side, before coming to the Big Apple and spending time in The Quays in Astoria, a former hangout of Shane MacGowan.
’Donovan Rossa GAA has been a constant throughout, though. The club honours the ideals and memory of revolutionary Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa who spent many gruelling years in English prisons for his activities but continued to push for the cause of Irish independence from his home in New York after an amnesty and exile.
"The Wild Goose was formerly Maguire's, the owner of which, Peter Maguire, I am long-time friends with," Joe said. "He told me he'd had a good run but was ready to give it up, but I urged him not to, and offered to take it on.
"I went with a new model for the place and got all hands on deck. We got the place ready in three weeks but it quickly became touch-and-go because of the pandemic. With the GAA club, we saw O'Donovan Rossa as a representative of the Irish Revolution in New York so thought it appropriate to name it after him."
"Despite the strong Irish link - and message that we're all in the same boat - we have stand-out players on the team with no Irish blood whatsoever. We're happy to promote the sport to newcomers, and look forward to our first dinner dance since Covid this week, where there'll be a three-course meal, a DJ, an MC, and lots of craic."
The Wild Goose will be hosting its annual Christmas party on December 14 and in January, will be running a charity Chicken Sh*t Bingo and "Goose Loco" hosted by Irish DJ Benny Bracken.
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