HOME AWAY FROM HOME Tony McTigue, a native of Cross, is pictured in New York.
COVID changed life for everyone in New York on March 18 last year. I remember being in Ned Devine’s bar in Yonkers that night and it was like the whole world was falling apart. Nobody knew what was going on or what was going to happen. A week later we were told that work would have to stop as well for a few weeks at least.
I was probably one of the luckier ones in that I’m classified as an essential worker so I went back to work after those few weeks. That’s something I’m very grateful for.
The manpower allowed on building sites was cut back a lot for a while last year. Only a certain amount of people from each trade were allowed on jobs so where you might have had 30 people at one stage, that was cut back to maybe 10 or 12.
Mask-wearing was compulsory and there would be breaks to allow workers to wash down their tools, crazy and all as it probably sounds. But we got used to it.
You did what you had to do.
Shopping was tough at times because the lines were so long. You could be three hours sometimes waiting to get into a store for your everyday normal supplies.
Everybody got on with it though and there was never any major panic.
You wouldn’t believe the toll that the closures had on restaurants and bars in the city. Those sort of businesses were hit hard and some of them have had to close permanently.
Mayo people will know Eugene Rooney’s bars in Manhattan — The Irish Pub and The Stagecoach. They are always very popular with Mayo people on holidays and with Mayo supporters when they come over for the GAA games every five years. Those bars are gone now, which is a crying shame. And there are a lot of other places closed as well.
Last June was when the restrictions started to ease up a little out here.
There was a great sense of relief when outdoor dining restarted around then, and at the weekends if we didn’t tip down to Ned Devine’s for a beer then we might have a barbecue in the garden for close friends. That’s one of the advantages of the good weather we get here during the summer months.
So much has changed here in New York since this time last year.
Covid cases twelve months ago were through the roof whereas now they are extremely low. That’s being put down to the vaccine roll-out over here which has been pushed really hard for the last few months.
Mobile vaccination centres have been rolled out now at sporting stadiums here and the health authorities are using different promotions and gimmicks to try and get people vaccinated.
Like giving away lottery tickets and tickets to play-off basketball games.
Anybody who is vaccinated doesn’t have to wear a mask most of the time. Obviously, if you’re on the subway or have a doctor’s appointment then you do wear a mask, but other than that we’re well on the way to being back to normal.
We’re also allowed to travel to other states now and, while there are spikes in certain areas from time to time, it’s nothing like it was a year ago.
I was down at Gaelic Park for the first match of the local GAA season last week to see the Mayo club in New York play. I really enjoyed that, it was another bit of normality returning.
One of the hardest things for me in the last year has been not being able to go home to Mayo.
I miss my family in Cross and I can’t wait to see my mother again soon.
It’s been almost two years since I’ve been back there and, with everything that’s happened, it makes you appreciate your family even more.
I’m fully vaccinated now though, thankfully, and I’m looking forward to a trip home.
It can be hard sometimes to explain to people at home how life here in New York can be so different to life in Ireland at the moment. We certainly have more freedom in terms of what we can do, and the Biden administration seem to be working hard to get the country back to normal as quickly as possible.
But I think we’re going to be living with the virus for some time to come.
In conversation with
Just briefly. . .
Best thing about living abroad?
Meeting people from different parts of Ireland and having the craic with them about the football!
One thing you would like to export from New York to Mayo?
Bud Light. Simple as that.
Most things you miss about home?
I miss the craic around GAA games in The Neale.
Favourite place to visit in Mayo?
Cong, Cross and The Neale. There’s no place like home.
Which three Mayo people would you pick on your Zoom quiz team?
Hugh Hennelly, Anne-Marie Kenny and Dean O’Connor.
What’s your most prized possession at the moment?
I have two. My mother and my girlfriend, Aine O’Sullivan. She’s up there with the best of them.
What is your happy place in New York?
Ned Devine’s bar.
First thing you will do when the pandemic ends?
We’re due a trip to Aruba.
Sum up the Coronavirus in three words?
A right pain!