“YOU see things and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were and I say, 'Why not?'” -- George Bernard Shaw.
To follow the thinking of Mr. Shaw here comes New York’s chance at saying why not when they take on Galway in this year’s Connaught championship on Sunday at Gaelic Park at 4 p.m.
Each year the Connaught championship arrives with a new manager over the New York side, and a panel that is looking to reach the Holy Grail. This year the opposition is Galway, with an outsider, Joe Kernan, driving the chariot.
Seamus Sweeney out of Donegal by way of Philadelphia is the outsider akin to Kernan who takes over the New York underachievers with a dream a hope.
While Galway will say that their dream is the Sam Maguire, the New York one is far more modest -- a win in the championship.
This year a new exuberance comes over the Tribesmen with the Armagh man Kernan leading the way. The trip from his home in Crossmaglen to the training field behind Joe Kyne’s bar in Loughgeorge, home of Galway football, is a trying one, but he took on the task with open arms.
The players at his disposal have been an underachieving lot since the glory days of 2001. This is a county that goes to Croke Park, unlike the other Connaught teams, and wins, one with nine All-Ireland titles and wanting for more.
Big Joe was made for the role with a mother “who has people in Ballinasloe,” a direct link. It was a match made in football heaven.
The New York fire is lit by the Donegal native Sweeney. Again the similarities with Kernan arise -- long trips out of Philly for training and meetings. On the beach sprinting or at Gaelic Park, heading to Boston, a further four hours.
Kernan may use a plane, but Sweeney is a little less exotic with his good old-fashioned wheels. His hopes are the same, however -- give his adopted county something they have not had in too long a time, inter county success.
The Galway supporters will say that success is a right. Are the players at their disposal capable of this?
Goalkeeper is the weirdest position of all. The best two goalies in Galway some say are from the same parish, Claregalway.
Brian Donoghue now lives in England but commutes for games with the club, no longer on the county panel, while Adrian Faherty is injured. Eoin O’Congaile has the inside track and looks like he will be the custodian.
The back line has had consistent faces over the league, with Finian Hanley rated as one of the best in Ireland at the three slot, and Gary O’Donnell from Gort getting an extended shot at center back.
Declan Meehan remains as a contender for number five, with Gary Bradshaw, Kieran Fitzgerald, Damien Blake and Diarmuid Burke all looking at slots on the wings.
They are trying who are normally midfielders at different positions, and that includes O’Donnell and Bradshaw at the back and Niall Coleman and Paul Conroy up front.
Coleman is an Annaghdown player, but his father is Mattie who came from Monivea and played for Galway and in New York back in the seventies and eighties.
Midfield is an area where Kernan is not settled. Perhaps he is looking for someone in his own mold, a strong ball carrying workhorse (he won an all-star at that position in 1977.)
What he has done is use Coleman, O’Donnell, Conroy, Conor Healy, Barry Cullinane and Joe Bergin at different times. It is their weakest area for that reason alone.
All men that can come down with the ball, but none that have yet shown that they can go both ways and lead the side. Conroy may be a couple of years away as the St. James youngster is just starting his career at this level.
Up front they have some household names in Padraig Joyce and Michael Meehan, who are both coming back from injury.
Nicky Joyce, Padraig’s cousin, is a player who would have had a 10-year career at 14 in some other counties, but with Galway he always seems to be on the wrong side of the manager. Kernan has embraced him and he has shown results on the field continually. A lethal forward when on song, he can change a game in a flash, and New York will remember him from FBD games in the recent past.
Eoin Concannon has broken into the side and seems to have locked up the corner, while Fiachra Breatneach is getting an extended run on the forty.
Joe Bergin is back from injury as good as ever, and he will be a third midfielder at number 12. Matthew Clancy, Cormac Bane, Gary Sice and Alan Burke are others who figure to challenge for starting slots.
Still quite a bit of trying out players at different positions. The National League left a lot of unanswered questions.
The Galway side has a lot of footballing talent. It still remains to be seen if they will be turned into an Armagh clone with the tackling ferociousness, and men behind the ball hunting in packs.
You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, however, but Kernan will have them in outstanding shape with a game plan to boot.
How will New York combat the Galway onslaught? The panel has been picked we think, with 30 players who are profiled elsewhere on the sports pages this week.
The lead up to the game, as is usual, was not helped by the lack of serious challenge games. County teams in Ireland must be enticed here by the board or even the All-Ireland club contestants.
A game against Corofin, Kilmacud Crokes or St. Galls would be a huge help. Give them financial stimulus to get here, and have two challenges against them while they are here.
That being said, the one game for New York was against Boston a couple of weekends ago. It was a slow start followed by a win in the end by four points. It helped as it got the cobwebs out but did little else.
The side for Galway one could only assume will have a strong resemblance to the team that finished against Boston. The goalkeeper slot is close between Pa Ryan and Alan Hearty -- not much to separate them.
Brendan McGourty and Alan Rafferty would seem to have three and six locked. Raff is a former Galway underage and senior player, and he will have quite a few acquaintances in the opposition ranks. Both are very comfortable on the ball and tight man markers.
The full back line will possibly have Lonan Maguire and Colm McCarron. James Huvane and Joe Bell are also challenging for these slots.
Ronan Caffrey seems to have five as his own but the other wing is still up for grabs. Johnny Goldrick always plays well at the higher levels and is a very fit player. Aiden Morton started and was taken off against Boston, while Aiden Power is another who merits consideration.
Jason Killeen has played championship football for both New York (he was outstanding against Leitrim in game that went to extra time) and Galway, but hasn’t figured off late in the New York game plan.
Midfield is seemingly a certainty -- Pat Madden and Paul O’Hara with Adrian O’Connor coming to this area as a third pair of hands. O’Hara is a hardy piece of stuff who has played senior for Longford, and he will have no fears on this stage.
Dan Doona will lead the attack from the 40 with Kevin McGeeney and Jason Kelly possible wing mates. Ross O’Donovan, Paddy Smith, Kenny O’Connor and James Moynagh are also leading contenders for attacking roles.
Johnny Murtagh has one corner sown up, with a possible dark horse in Benny Reilly getting 15.
The early minutes of the game will be crucial with scores at a premium. If New York can get to the 20 minute mark level then it will be a stake through the Tribesmen. Each 10 minute segment from that point on must be controlled.
A tough assignment then for the weekend, with the winner getting a tilt with the Sligo/Mayo winner in the next round in June.
The curtain raiser is a Ladies Railway Cup game at noon when all the stars of New York Ladies football will be on show.
The senior contest will be followed by an over-40s contest, with Tony McKenna getting his Bronx side ready for a battle with Ciaran Lee and Rockland in the first leg of the 2010 series.
The over-40s are discussing a trip to Ireland in September to challenge one of the counties in Leinster on the weekend of the All-Ireland football contest. A novel idea and one that could lead to the addition of New York to the All-Ireland series at that level.
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