There will be two opportunities this coming weekend for the Irish to make history in America. In the first, the New York Gaelic football all-star team has a rare chance at glory when they play Leitrim in the opening round of the All-Ireland championship in New York on Sunday. 

It is by far the biggest game of the Gaelic football year for the exiles. New York has played Connacht opposition every year since 1999 but never won a game. 

The closest they came was extra time against Leitrim in 2003 when they lost by two points. 

Leitrim is the weakest county of the five Connacht teams that play in the All-Ireland championship. 

New York this year features many talented one-year J-1 visa students from Ireland, and look strong enough to mount a real challenge. 

A win would be historic and New York will have got great confidence last week from defeating All-Ireland club champions Corofin who were touring America by 1-20 to 1-7. 

Even allowing for the Corofin team understandably taking things easy and having some fun on their vacation, it was still a significant victory. 

So all roads will lead to Gaelic Park, the venerable old park in the Bronx on 240th Street and Broadway which has been home to Gaelic games in New York since 1926. 

A day out in Gaelic Park is like nothing else in New York, an old world experience where everyone is friendly, the craic is mighty and this year the possibility of major success shimmers brightly. 

Even the bookmakers think so. Boylesports has New York at 11/8 (put down $8 to win $11 and Leitrim at 8/11 (put down $11 to win $8).  Normally, against one of the stronger Connacht teams, New York would be huge odds, 10/1 or over to win. 

The main difference in the past is that the teams from Ireland are fitter when it counts most in the final quarter, but this time New York might well be able to match and even defeat Leitrim and defy the odds. 

Speaking of odds, the other great opportunity of a historic Irish win comes in the Kentucky Derby, the greatest two minutes in sport. 

Twenty horses will line up seeking fame and glory at Churchill Downs where the local anthem, “My Old Kentucky Home” draws tears from the crowd. 

I can safely say the Kentucky Derby should be experienced, but once was enough for me.  The vast crowds, the tight spaces, the carry-on. As Hunter Thompson wrote, “The Kentucky Derby is both decadent and depraved...but it’s what helps make it great.” 

Aidan O’Brien, arguably the best trainer in the world, sends a live contender from Ireland this year, Mendelssohn, who won the Breeders’ Cup turf for juveniles last year.  He cost $3 million as a yearling so there is no doubting his looks. 

No European-based horse has ever won the Kentucky Derby. Mendelssohn could be the horse to change that. https://t.co/iVFwd1LOI5 pic.twitter.com/KGGVZfEsxn

— NYT Sports (@NYTSports) May 3, 2018

In his last race, he galloped his rivals off their feet in Dubai and recorded a 20-length win. 

O’Brien has sent horses before but none came close. Most were natural turf horses, ill-fitted to run on dirt. 

Mendelssohn had the breeding and the talent to win on dirt. 

He will be third or fourth favorite behind horses such as Justify, this year’s talking horse who is unbeaten but inexperienced. 

You can plan to bet anyway you like at Kentucky, but the draw is a critical factor. Get drawn deep inside and you will get jammed by horses trying to get close to the rail for a better run, 

If he doesn’t draw gates one, two or three, I believe Mendelssohn has an amazing opportunity to break a 144-year history of no Irish horse ever winning the race. 

So get set for a weekend of history-making -- or crushing disappointment, Either way, it’s going to be good times at Gaelic Park and Churchill Downs. 

New York and Sligo GAA teams in action during last year’s Connacht Championship at Gaelic Park.Chris Clarke