By Frank Brady
On Sunday at 4:00 p.m., the New York footballers take on Galway in the first round of the Connacht championship. By any type of analysis, this is a very daunting task for the Big Apple players as the Tribesmen are one of the leading teams west of the Shannon plus they still have a few All-Ireland medal winners in their ranks. New York’s continued participation in this event has garnered plenty of attention in recent times. Pat Spillane, the former Kerry great and currently columnist and sports panelist, regards it as a great waste of money. Meanwhile, Colum O’Rourke, the former Meath star, and also columnist and panelist, argues quite persuasively that sports is not defined solely by scores and stats, but that this particular game has a much broader role to play in the Irish diaspora. Meanwhile given the respective rankings of both teams, any illusion or pretensions toward victory for the local squad would possibly have one certified as delusional. Perhaps the columnist Charles Kruthammer of the Daily News is his assessment of the Washington Nationals comes close to the New York situation, when he states that where there are no expectations, there is no disappointment. Consequently defeat, which has been the norm for New York, will not be too shattering.
Meanwhile it looks as if Pa Ryan will be minding the nets while Brendan McGourty will probably man the fullback slot. In contention for the corner spots will be John Goldrick, Joe Bell, Colm McCarron, and Lonan McGuire. Alan Raftery will be in the center of the defense while Ronan Caffrey, Aidan Power, Tom Hardwick, and Aidan Mortan may be possible flankers. I’m sure New York will opt for size in the middle of the field with Adrian O’Connor, Pat Madden likely starters, Robbie Moran and Paul O’Hara could also be deployed here if not elsewhere. Dan Doona may be on the forty with several permutations possible for the three quarter line. Kevin McGeeney, Mark Dobbin, Jason Kelly, Ross Donovan, plus O’Hara and Moran are all contenders. Ken O’Connor did well in Boston on the edge of the square despite suspect mobility. He may be retained while John Murtagh will slot into one corner. James Moynagh has been groomed for the other corner but Paddy Smith must be given serious attention as he has a tendency to fire on the big day. Jason Killeen is also back in the panel plus newcomer Benny Reilly, and C.J. Molloy might be options. Others rounding out the panel are Alan Hearly, Alan Carolan, Shane Carty, and James Huvane.
At this stage Galway have not released their panel but it has been remarkably consistent over the last season. Among whom are the following: Eoin Congahaile, Kieran Fitzgerald, Finian Hanley, Damien Burke, Declan Meehan, Diarmuid Blake, Gareth Bradshaw, Barry Cullinane, Niall Coleman, Gary Sice, Fiachra Breathnach, Joe Bergin, Eoin Concannon, Nickey Joyce, Mathew Clancy, Gary O’Donnell, Paul Conroy, David Reilly, Cormac Bane, Damien Dunleavy, Paul Doherty, and Darren Mullahey. Sean Armstrong is out of contention while Pauric Joyce is also recuperating from injury. In general Galway tend to be a high scoring outfit with Concannon, Meehan, Joyce, Clancy, Breathnach, and company all lethal finishers. Galway were here in the fall with Joe Kernan in charge. They had little trouble in disposing of New York in the FBD final, and I’m sure they’ll easily have their measure again. Anyway I’m sure New York will not want for effort, but there are also a lot of other tangible and intangibles that factor into the equation for a victory. Galway have nearly all the aces in this one except home field advantage.