In the dead of winter no one asks why is he leaving the kids behind and headed for the beach. Why is the dog chewing the leg of him because he is not allowed to come along. Why is he staying in on Saturday night to rise early on the one day off in the week.
For a group of men in New York there is a huge reason -- Roscommon in May. The visitors this season to New York for the Connaught football championship are the reigning champions of the province, Roscommon. A scary prospect.
The last time Roscommon arrived into town they exited with a 1-14 to 0-9 victory. The game was much closer than the score reflects, however.
New York attacked midway through the second half with the game hanging in the balance. They hit the upright and Roscommon grabbed possession.
The visitors moved the ball down the field and had a 1-1 at the other end in the space of three minutes. It killed off the host’s challenge.
The memory lasts in the mind of this year’s New York trainer Justin O’Halloran as he came on as a sub in that contest.
“This year’s side has learned a lot from the games at the end of last season against Louth and Down,” stated the feisty and vocal O’Halloran. “Those games have given this panel a lot of confidence as we get ready for the challenge in May”.
New York has had teams in the past that have had the ability to win in Connaught, but it just didn’t happen on the day. The game against Roscommon is a glaring example.
New York had a superb start against Mayo two years ago, while the encounter against Galway should have or at least could have been a home victory but for some discipline problems in the second half.
The game last May against the Tribesmen had the storyline of a monumental upset, with Dan Doona having a tremendous outing with five glorious scores with the captain’s armband. It was a sublime performance by Padraig Joyce that saved Galway, but only just.
Aiden Power is a veteran New York player now, and his play in the Louth contest last fall was outstanding.
“This panel has a huge belief in itself. In comparison to previous years we realize that we have a huge opportunity for a win,” said O’Halloran.
“There is a strong base of 20 to 22 players already training, and the prospect of further players arriving will only push the panel on. The shoe’s on the other foot this year. We expect to beat Roscommon.”
Keys to achieve the victory are paramount in manager Seamus Sweeney’s mind. The commute from Philadelphia four times a week does nothing to quell his enthusiasm.
“We have challenge games planned against Boston, and we hope to schedule at least two in the coming weeks. There are at least 42 training sessions on the horizon and discipline will be key on the big day as well as the fitness level of the side,” he said.
There are also possible games against Donegal and the St. Galls club side on the calendar which will be an excellent help to preparations. When the manager signed on for the long haul last winter the Holy Grail was a championship win, nothing short.
The panel is riddled with inter county experience. Rory Stafford with Wexford, Rory O’Connor with Roscommon, Dan Doona with the Kingdom and Paul O’Hara with Longford start the ball rolling.
Add in Adrian O’Connor, who is set on returning from a horrific injury last season, alongside Pat Madden (Kerry), Sean McNamee (Armagh), Kevin Smith (Longford) and Paddy Kelly (Kerry), and more than half of a starting 15 have played at the highest level.
If the number of sessions on the calendar is 42 then all will be expected to make it to 36 or more. Sacrifices will be needed and made. Freezing temperatures meant little in the early days, with numb fingers, steam off breaths and water frozen as it sits on the floor waiting for players to come back from the long runs on the Orchard Beach sand.
Watching the long line of players trudge through the snow to get to the available sand on the east coast of the Bronx was not for the faint of heart last Sunday morning. A passerby asked what are they training for.
“Football” was the reply. “
But they don’t have one?”
“That will arrive in time.”
“Who are they doing it for?” he asked
“For New York. For us, for victory!”