Out with the old and in with the new as the senior football division starts its year this week.
The championship proper will not begin until June as the cup competition takes place in the first few weeks. What is formally called the Knockout Cup is now played on a league basis with all teams guaranteed three games.
They will have a full line up of four games this Sunday with all teams in action. The sides are then off for a period as the Connaught Championship encounter against Galway comes up on May 2.
New York does have a challenge against Boston in Canton on April 17.
Intermediate teams play on the weekend of the 18th, while the week before the championship game has always been an off week for the senior panel.
The first week out will be a day of feeling out the ground, and forgive us if we don’t preview the four games as there are much bigger fish to fry.
Here's how the senior football looks to the Irish Voice for 2010, and if no one still has the 2009 edition, I picked Down to win in a close contest over Cork!
8. Sligo. John Cribben is back as manager, and his draft has four Astoria players with Paddy Brennan (Kerry) a solid performer, Nester Allen, Dermot Fleming and Dave Garvey having a wealth of experience. They always bring some quality players from Ireland.
All told they will have a big win in the middle of the summer against a team that maybe underestimated them, but it won’t be enough to get them to the playoffs.
7. Donegal. With six teams going to the playoffs, Donegal will be the odd team out. Ray Keenan is a dogged footballer and is never found wanting, while James Huvane is one of the best markers in New York at the moment.
CJ Molloy needs to recover from some nasty and niggling injuries. His performance in England on what was in retrospect one leg, was outstanding. Eunan Doherty still mans the one slot, and the addition of Four Provinces’ Seamus Sweeney as manager can only help with talent coming from Ireland.
Will it be enough? They will put scares into other teams and their season will go down to the wire before they fail at the last hurdle.
6. Down. The reigning champions went into the playoffs last season as the fourth seed. This year the run in the knockouts will not be as forgiving.
James Mitchell and Eugene O’Hagan are gone, two experienced middlemen.
What does remain is a strong nucleus of Mark Dobbins, Shaun Munnelly, who plays the sweeper role as well as any, Robbie Moran, Gary Cornyn and keeper Mark Kelly.
Following on the heels of Garth Dobbins, Paddy Cunningham and James McGovern, “the best sanction ever” Pakie Downey was practically unmarkable one on one, with Richard Dalton and Michael O’Rourke a big three punch.
Will they be able go that big again? It certainly costs. With Ciaran Fearon stepping down as manager, the thrill ride may be over for a year. They will still be a formidable foe.
5. Kerry. Four of the last six titles, 26 in all, Jack O’Connor says it best about the Kingdom -- they just don’t accept second place. Good to see Anthony Glacken back at the Cavan 7s.
Vinnie Gavin hasn’t had time for New York the last two years, but he still ranks as one of the top five midfielders in town. Shane Carty continues to blossom as a forward, while Darren Courtney, Eoghan O’Mahoney and Shane Langan are others who will give Finbarr Flood reasons to smile as the Kerry manager this year.
Martin O’Connor and Shane Clifford are probably the best one two tandem of keepers this county has seen at club level. Will it be enough?
They will need help from Ireland to push them over the top as Ross Donovan and Dermie Foley did not get the required help last year. Johnny Murtagh is now on board which makes them a toss up with Leitrim for the last four slot.
The Kerry under-21s are out of the Championship, so don’t be surprised if Paul Geaney or James O’Donaghue arrive across the pond.
4. Leitrim. The 2009 team was built early to win, but as the year went on it headed down a typical path over the last 12 years.
It has been a dozen since the glory days of Mike Brosnan, Jim Donaghue, et al. When Pat Madden, Owen O’Neill and Scott Conroy arrived last year they were unstoppable.
The Doolin brothers had moments but the side needed an old-fashioned number six. All that being said, if you were given a club manager job tomorrow morning and you had Dan Doona, Adrian O’Connor, Alan Foley, Lonon Maguire, Donal Hartnett and Shane Sweeney as your first six, you would consider yourself very lucky.
Doona is one of a handful of players in New York at the moment who would head the native counties in Ireland and contend for a slot on a county side there (Rafferty, Foley, Gavin, Jason Kelly, would be others).
The key is to get them through the playoffs not just into them. A semi final slot again.
3. Cavan. Cavan were the silent force last year. Consider this -- the full back from the Kerry under-21 All-Ireland winners Mike Maloney, the corner forward from the Kerry team today and also an under-21 winner Kieran O’Leary did not come back to New York for the quarterfinal against Down last year and Cavan lost by three points.
Johnny Ryan did and scored 3-1. Ryan was the best forward in town, a scoring phenom. The ending would have been a lot different had the Crokes lads returned.
Cavan have changed managers with Mike Reilly at the helm this season. They have a solid center line in Alan Carolan, Brendan Reilly, Brian Naughton, Garth Kelly, Kevin McGeeney and Tomo Smith. It immediately gives them a fighting chance.
If they get help from Ireland anyway akin to the three lads named above they are a threat to go all the way for the first time since 1992.
The second scoring option before or after Tomo is critical.
A big midfielder would also be nice, but sure everyone except Leitrim is looking for that.
Do they have the skills to break the top two? Time will tell but they may be a year away.
2. Tyrone. A hurricane through the league stages last season. They had a brilliant defense with Bell, McCullough, Mulherne, Power, Skeffington, and Steve Keating.
Midfield was settled from an early stage with Gary Reilly and Eamonn Woods, with a two-pronged attack in Johnny Murtagh and Pakie McMullan.
In hindsight they may have been too predictable as the year went on. Cork took away Murtagh and there was no back up plan.
Murtagh left Man United for Real Madrid over the winter akin to Ronaldo, and he will be replaced. A start was getting the Garvey brothers.
Declan will slot in anywhere in the back six. When he hits you, you remember. That’s not because he’s dirty, just hard and fair.
Ronan still has one of the top two left pegs in New York. A brilliant playmaker, he makes those around him better.
Tyrone is under the hands of Emmitt Woods and they will have help from Ireland again.
Enough to get them to a county final? We think so.
1. Cork. And the winner is . . . the Rebels for the first time since 1916, 1918, 1935 and 1955, for their fifth title.
Why Cork says you? Let me tell you why.
They lost at the semi stage in 2008 to Kerry, and last year by two points to Down. If they hadn’t given up 2-7 over the opening seven minutes of the first and second halves in the final it would have been so different.
They will have learned from those experiences. The side is building to succeed.
They have Mark Comerford on board as manager, with Denis McCarthy, Alan Rafferty, who would have been in line for player of the year honors, John Fitzpatrick, Sean Lordon, and Conor Hunter back.
The drafts they received in Ronan Caffrey, Jason Kelly, Sean Purcell and Declan Reilly are outstanding. All are game winners in their own rights.
When you look at the players that arrived last summer in Rory Stafford, Ciaran Lyng, Rory Woods and Colin Daly the talent is unbelievable. They will again bring players of that stature as the club is rolling on overdrive now.
It will be one of the closest run-ins in years. The top six all have real chances to take the championship home, but Cork will survive the minefield and stand proud at the end.
Moving to Ireland
After living in Ireland for almost one year, this is what I’ve learned