3 p.m.: Galway vs. New York
New York hosts Galway for the second year in a row in the annual FBD League final in Gaelic Park this Sunday.
While Galway had a relatively easy time last year, this year’s contest takes on extra meaning, with Galway employing a new manager a month ago in the form of Joe Kernan.
Kernan, of course, led his native county Armagh to seven Ulster titles and the Sam Maguire in 2002 before stepping down. He also had a brilliant career as a player that included a goal scored in the ‘77 All Ireland final that was voted goal of the year, a long solo run before he blasted to the net.
He has Galway connections as well. His mother is from Ballinasloe and he is related to the famed Donnellon family. Two years ago when in New York he took time out to come to Gaelic Park and speak to the New York under-21 side that was preparing for a trip to England at the time for the British University games.
What of his team then? Well, he may be without the players from Mountbellew/Moylough and Corofin who drew in the Galway county final last Sunday and will be preparing for a replay on October 18. That will probably rule out Kieran Fitzgerald, Joe Bergin, Gary Sice and Damien Burke.
The side that won the actual FBD title in February is on board to come over, but the new manager may decide to include some new players to replace those who are cup tied.
Some of the players who were on the panel played in New York this summer with Jonathon Ryan (Cavan), Damien Reilly (Kerry), Martin Coady (Kerry) and Thomas Hughes (Four Provinces) all impressing on this side of the pond during various games.
Ryan made a huge mark with three goals in the Down win over Cavan in the quarterfinal, while Reilly looked a very composed defender. Others that will be on Galway panel will include Michael Meehan, who is a scoring phenom, and Adrian Faherty, who is a very capable keeper.
Finian Hanley from Salthill has already been nominated for all-star awards, while Barry Cullinane was the first player from Galway to win both under-21 hurling and football titles in the same year, 2005. A giant in the middle at 6’7”, he had a titanic battle with Kenny O’Connor last year.
Niall Colman, Fiachra Breathnach, Paul Conroy, Sean Armstrong and Declan Meehan should also be included in the panel.
New York preparations for the FBD are always a little subdued in comparison to the championship encounters in May due to club activity at this time of year, but the panel that will be available on Sunday will have no fears in the task at hand and certainly will come with victory in mind.
New York have had some of their greatest results in inter-county football in recent times in this competition, with the victory over Sligo when Bingo Driscoll was captain five years ago an obvious high. On that occasion P.J. Ward kicked some inspirational points, while the defense clamped down when needed.
They also ran Galway to extra time in 2001 when a dubious free allowed John Donnellon to kick an equalizer with less than a minute left in normal time for Galway.
This year’s side will have Evan Byrne (Cork) and Alan Hearty (Armagh) back vying for the number one slot. The defense will have a number of options, with Alan Rafferty (Cork), Denis McCarthy (Cork), James Huvane (St. Raymond’s), Alan Carolan and Brendan Reilly (Cavan), John Goldrick (Leitrim) and Gary Cornyn (Down) all in line for starting positions.
Midfield will have captain Robbie Moran as a mainstay, with Gary Dowd, Tom Hardwick (Donegal) and Rory Strafford (Cork) all viable options.
The front line also has numerous options, with Mike Higgins (Four Provinces), Ronan Caffrey from junior champions Rangers, Kevin McGeeney (Armagh), Pakie Downey, Michael Sloan and Shaun Munnelly (Down), Thomas McGovern (St. Barnabas) and Shane Carty (Dublin) all in line for inclusion.
Sean O’Neill (Rangers) and Nicky Dineen (Cork) will also be in line, while the roving Francie Cleary started against Mayo. All in all plenty of lineout options for manager Seamus Smith to ponder.
The game will be preceded by an intercounty hurling challenge between Boston and New York that will rekindle some old embers of battle. That game is at 1 p.m.