By Pierce O’Reilly
New York vs. Roscommon
Saturday, 7 p.m.
At Dr. Hyde Park
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New York’s footballers are hoping that the third time is the charm. The Paddy Kearney-managed team is heading for Roscommon Town this week, and perhaps to a date with destiny, when it takes on Roscommon in the first round of the Connaught Championship Saturday at Dr. Hyde Park.
This marks the third trip to Ireland for a New York team. In 1999, their inaugural year, the New Yorkers fell to Mayo, 3-12 to 0-11, at McHale Park in Castlebar, but their spirited performance was noted by even the harshest of GAA critics. Last year, the exiles faced the daunting task of Galway, newly crowned All-Ireland champions. The Tribesmen were rocked by a brave and honest New York performance that lacked nothing in effort or commitment. The exiles’ inability to score at vital stages cost them dearly, however, and Galway survived their early scare to win 1-15 to 1-5.
On Saturday next, the new crop of players travel in hope of championship honor. Only one player, Donegal’s Gary Dowd, will have started in all three championship games to date. Cork native Pat Mahoney will most likely partner him at midfield.
"Individually, we’ve players that would walk onto any county team at home," Kearney said. "If we’ve the guts to fight like bulls from the off, I’m certain we’ve the stuff to beat Roscommon."
The Cloghane, Castlegeogary, Co. Kerry man, who brought the Kerry New York club from the wilderness in 1999, is bursting with belief.
"We’ve quality players all over the field, but to win, everyone, down to the last sub, must give it all they’ve got," Kearney said.
The quality for New York will come from full forward Peter Loughran, who lined out for Armagh seniors on several occasions last year. New York native Kevin Lilly will also be returning to championship fare. Elsewhere, Kearney will look to Bingo Driscoll, Monaghan senior Martin Slowey and Tipperary natives P.J. Lanigan and duel player Owen Cummins.
Roscommon, under the tutelage of John Tobin, reached the League semifinal earlier this season where they met a second-half rampant Mayo attack. Reports from within the county suggest that they have a litany of injury worries ahead of Saturday’s showdown. Midfielder Donal Casserly has a knee injury. Center forward John Hanley pulled a hamstring in the Mayo league game, while Clifford McDonald, deadly corner forward Frankie Dolan, and wing back Ian Daly are all some way from full fitness.
"We’re not worrying about Roscommon or their injuries right now," Kearney said before the team’s departure from JFK Airport yesterday evening. "When we leave Hyde Park on Saturday evening, those lads will know all about New York football and what we’re made of. I bet we’ll have very few offers for summer sanctions afterward."
Kearney has fire in his belly, it will take a lot of Roscommon water to put it out.