The New York all-stars arrive again at the time of year when they are asked the same annual question. First weekend in May, Connacht Championship, streak is on the line, second best team in Ireland arriving into town. Can New York possibly compete?
The positive attitude can get you so far, but it will not win a game for you. There is no mantel in any house for moral victories; in fact I have never seen a medal given out for those. And if they did who exactly would want one?
It’s about going out to win. That’s right, win.
It was said that the opening round of the Connacht Championship between New York and Mayo on Sunday afternoon in Gaelic Park should be moved to Croke Park as Mayo never win there. Comedic yes, hurtful also.
Even though the match will be played in New York’s back yard, they will be the visitors. Mayo will be the home team.
How did that happen? Oh yeah, it’s a “social event.” Since when did getting hammered every year become okay because it’s a social event?
Let’s think about that side of the equation. Don’t get me wrong now. It is fantastic to see all the faces from your home county not only in the park but at the various functions across the tri-state area.
It’s a homecoming of sorts as the relatives and friends arrive into town. Two to three thousand people in their colors meeting and greeting. The game is second fiddle to many as they all expect it will be an easy victory for the visitors.
Therein lies the problem. It’s the first round of the All-Ireland championship and New York is expected to give just token resistance as the visitors continue on to their next assignment which normally is the semifinal of the Connacht Championship.
Is it accepted. It shouldn’t be. Enough with that. Time to get up!
The average loss for New York since the turn of the century has been 14.5 points. The top three “moral victories” that stand out are the following in order of importance:
In 2003 the score was Leitrim 0-14 New York 0-12. After losing James Mitchell to a red, New York still battled to the wire and put Leitrim under severe pressure with Fergal O’Neill, Jason Killeen, Kenny O’Connor et al, all outstanding.
In 2010 the score was Galway 2-13 New York 0-12. Dan Doona rolled back the clock with an outstanding display but Galway just scrape through.
In 2006 the score was Roscommon 1-14 New York 0-9. Aiden McCarron had a stormer, New York hit the upright and Ross stormed down field for a four point turnaround late in the second half.
Looking at this year’s assignment, it is very obvious to all that Mayo are in the top three in Ireland (let’s not fool anyone) at the moment after numerous stirring performances in the last few years.
Many will contend that they should have had an All-Ireland title in the last three years for all their hard work. The side that played against Derry in the recent league semifinal was riddled with talent. They had four victories in the league group stages to go alongside one draw and two losses.
One of Mayo’s strong attributes is the ability of their half back line to attack at speed with brilliant ball handling qualities. The strength they have in the middle of the park will also be important. The battle between Aiden O’Shea, John Gibbons and the New York Quigley/Raftery combo will be pivotal for New York’s chances and Mayo’s dominance.
Up front captain Andy Moran, Alan Freeman and Cillian O’Connor if fit will take watching as they can all break the game open when given any space at all.
How do you combat a side that has all of these talents and approach the game with a winning attitude?
This year’s New York side again is missing a number of players that are in town, have had inter-county experience in Ireland but are not available to the side for various reasons. As stated before in these pages, let’s look at what manager Ian Galvin has, and not worry about he doesn’t.
The panel was not available at time of writing which is a little startling as it is extremely hard to cut a player less than a week before a big game if he has done all that is asked of him.
A number of players did line out for their clubs on Sunday which means they are off the panel – or at least one would assume as the direction that was announced by the New York board was that all New York players would not be playing last week in club games.
The keeper slot is in very good hands with Gavin Joyce and Pa Ryan both vying for the one slot. Both have held the keeper shirt in the championship before and are sure handed with towering kickouts.
The back six has a number of options, with Paul O’Connor from Kilmurry Ilbrackine who lined out for New York as far back as 2002 seemingly set at center back. The battle inside him seems to be between Kieran O’Connor of Kerry and Conor McCormack from the same club. Ronan McGinley, who captained New York a couple of years ago, is having a superb spring at corner back while Ger McCarten (Down), Mikey O’Regan (Clare), Tommy Warburton (Westmeath) and the lone player who has come through the ranks in New York, James Huvane, are all challenging for corner berths.
On the wings, Galvin seems to be set with Paddy Boyle and Keith Scally, although Lonan Maguire also brings a lot of experience as well. Scally is an attack minded player who links well with the attack. Denis O’Sullivan is also another option in this line and may see time in the middle. A good ball handling defender, he is also very strong in the tackle.
The middle of the park will belong to Alan Raftery and Brendan Quigley, the big Laois man who is also the New York captain. Much will be expected of him.
Raff is playing at a very high level this season. He brings leadership qualities also to the fray and has no fear at this level as he has was on the New York side in 2009 that gave Mayo a good rattle and has also represented Galway and London in his career.
Where will the scores come from in pursuit of victory? Former Donegal player Ross Wherity is on the panel this season and was played against Mayo previously for his native county. Jason Kelly of Offaly, who was a huge loss due to injury last season, is back to form while vice captain Gary O’Driscoll will be used in the forward line this season after a spell in the middle. O’Driscoll is a playmaker and scorer who will be looked on to carry the side.
Niall Farrell, Keith Quinn and Hugh Curran are others who will possibly see starting slots, while Johnny McGeeney has come forward to be a delightful discovery this spring. His talent was always there, but New York is the recipient for an extended period for the first time.
A projected (Irish Voice) lineout is as follows: 1 Gavin Joyce, 2 Ronan McGinley, 3 Kieran O’Connor, 4 Ger McCarten, 5 Keith Scally, 6 Paul O’Connor, 7 Paddy Boyle, 8 Brendan Quigley, 9 Alan Raftery, 10 Ross Wherity, 11 Jason Kelly, 12 Keith Quinn, 13 Johnny McGeeney, 14 Gary O’Driscoll, 15 Denis O’Sullivan. Conor McCormack, Lonan Maguire, James Huvane, Mike O’Regan, Mike Reilly, Padraig Graham, Sean O’Neill, Hugh Curran, Sean McNamee, Adrian O’Connor, Pa Ryan, Darren Walsh.
If one was to look for an inspiration let me borrow a line from Abraham Lincoln: “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”
It is time to get up.