On Saturday evening, November 17, Gaelic Park will host the 2012 playing of the all-star challenge when the 2011 football winners will take on this year’s selection.
The event marks a return to the trips from the glory years of the eighties. This will be the closing night for hosts the New York GAA for the season and promises to be a festive and flowing football match.
These games are normally played in a spirited and free wheeling style with defense way down the list of necessities. This allows for the best attacking features of football to come to the top.
With a host of brilliant players from Ireland arriving here, including at least 16 All-Ireland medal holders, GAA fans on this side of the ocean are in for a treat.
On the 2012 side that was selected, Donegal were the leaders with eight selections. Seven of those players are on board for travel including brilliant center back and leader Karl Lacey, who is eligible for both sides as he won back to back honors. Neil McGee and Paul Flynn are also allowed into both dressing rooms after fantastic 48 month periods.
Donegal flyers Colin McFadden and Michael Murphy are both traveling for the 2012 squad. They will surely look for more early ball into their direction in the full forward line for more trademark outstanding scores.
While Donegal backbones this year’s side, the 2011 version has a distinct Dublin flavor. On the heels of winning that year’s All-Ireland title, six players were selected to the starting 15.
Of those, the Brogans are of course the most significant with both Alan and Bernard in the traveling party. The battle they wage with McGee and Lacey will perhaps decide the destination of honors.
Midfield will also have a huge baring on the possession arrow. Brian Sheehan and Michael McCauley are both on hand for last year’s squad while Neil Gallagher and Aiden Walsh from Cork are both in town for the twelves.
Towering kickouts will be fought for hard in the center circle, with breaks unlikely with the sure hands of these excellent footballers on hand. It will be interesting to see how Sheehan adapts to the artificial surface for his free taking also.
As the club championships in Ireland rule out some players from traveling, including Colm Cooper, who is involved with Dr. Crokes in the Munster Championship, a returning adopted New Yorker in Brendan Kealy gets an opportunity to travel. He was part of the Leitrim panel here for a summer in the last decade.
A novel feature of this year’s contest will be the inclusion of some American-born players to the roster. Four players who were involved with New York in the Connaught championship -- Donnacha O’Dwyer, CJ Molloy, Conor and Shane Hogan -- will be part of the panels for the game on Saturday.
Each side will get two players, and I have been told by New York GAA chairman Liam Bermingham that they will all feature at some point in the contest. This is a major boost for the New York Minor Board and the hard work it does at the underage level which included a Division Two title in the Feile this year in Ireland.
All four of those players have come through the Minor Board ranks, with Molloy having a major role in Kerry’s run to the county final this year. The other three players did not feature at the senior level this year, but look for that to change in the coming season.
Pat Gilroy and Jim McGuinness will manage the sides on Saturday evening with throw in at 6 p.m.
While tactics will have little to do with the normal free flowing nature of an all-star contest, it will be interesting to see what transpires if the game is a close contest as it comes down to the wire with these astute gentlemen roaming the sidelines.
It’s a long trip across the pond listening to the other half of the plane talking about the beating you received at the Mecca!
The 2011 squad: S. Cluxton (Dublin), M. O Se (Kerry), N. McGee (Donegal), M. Foley (Kildare), K. Cassidy (Donegal), K. Lacey (Donegal), K. Nolan (Dublin), B. Sheehan (Kerry), MD Macauley (Dublin), D O’Sullivan (Kerry), A. Brogan (Dublin), P. Flynn (Dublin), C. Cooper (Kerry), A. Moran (Mayo), B. Brogan (Dublin.)
The 2012 squad: Paul Durcan (Donegal), Neil McGee (Donegal), Ger Cafferkey (Mayo), Keith Higgins (Mayo), Lee Keegan (Mayo), Karl Lacey (Donegal), Frank McGlynn (Donegal), Neil Gallagher (Donegal), Aidan Walsh (Cork), Paul Flynn (Dublin), Alan Dillon (Mayo), Mark McHugh (Donegal), Colm O'Neill (Cork), Michael Murphy (Donegal), Colm McFadden (Donegal).