New York Gaelic footballers took the field in Gaelic Park in The Bronx on Sunday in dreadful conditions with bookies giving 25/1 odds that they would beat County Roscommon.
Each year New York plays the part of a sacrificial lamb for a team from Connacht who play them in the first game of the All Ireland championship, Ireland’s premier sporting event in which all Irish counties with the exception of Kilkenny take part. The addition of teams from New York and London make a total of 33 teams in the competition.
New York lost by 24 points last year and a similar margin the year before against Connacht teams so no one expected anything different this year.
Roscommon is one of the top 10 counties in Ireland and after an impressive showing in other competitions this year was expected to win very easily, as usually happens when Irish teams come to play New York.
But in a result that nearly sent the bookmakers scurrying to the hills, New York performed heroically, losing only by a single point 1-15 to 0-17 in a thriller of a match that rewarded all those who showed up despite the elements.
Heartbraking 1 point defeat to Roscommon. A moral victory wasn't what we came here for but you can't be too unhappy...Posted by New York GAA on Sunday, May 1, 2016
The difference this year was that the New York boys were as fit and hungry as the opposition who clearly underestimated them by starting five newcomers, a highly unusual step in a first round championship encounter.
New York was only denied by the clock at the end as the locals were clearly on top and scored a point to leave them just one score behind heading into the final seconds.
Alas, the whistle blew too soon afterwards and an incredibly gallant New York effort fell just short of what would have been the biggest upset in the All Ireland championship, possibly ever.
The result also shows that the fixture will now undoubtedly continue as there had been calls to nix it after the heavy losses piled on New York in recent years.
Gaelic Park has witnessed many great battles over the decades but nothing, I suspect, like this game, although New York did tie Leitrim, a far weaker Connacht team, and lost only in extra time a number of years back.
So hats off to the New York lads. It's a little like the Toledo Mud Hens running the Yankees to a single run victory or Leicester winning the premier division of the English league. Oh wait, despite their 5,000/1 odds Leicester look like attaining that incredible prize.
Roll on next year for New York who will take great solace from this result and that historic day when they beat a Connacht side may not be too far away.