By Mike Fitzpatrick
The long-awaited return of Gaelic sports returns to New York this weekend with the opening of the 2000 GAA season. The Gaelic Park venue in the Bronx, which has seen so many exciting games in its long history, will once again be the site of most of this season’s fixtures. Here’s a look at how the first weekend of action shapes up:
Junior Football Division ‘A’
Down vs. Fermanagh
Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo
Subscribe to one of our great value packages.
Always one of the tougher divisions to predict, Junior Football’s top flight kicks off on opening day with this clash of Ulstermen. A disappointing season by both sides last year resulted in neither side making it to and through the playoffs.
Rockland won the title last year, and the remaining sides must surely breathe a sigh of relief concerning their non-appearance this year.
There are still some good sides out there, of course, and both teams here must look for the points to begin the season on a good note. Down will enter the tie as slight favorites, and I predict a win for the Mournemen.
Senior Hurling Knockout
Clare vs. Westmeath
The first Senior ash clashing of the millennium comes to us on behalf of these two teams, hoping to add some silverware to their respective camps.
Last year, Dessie Costello’s Westmeath side kept their championship hopes alive with a fabulous win over 1998 champions Limerick, then succumbed to defeat on the final lap toward glory. Costello’s men started poorly, then stunned everybody with some fine wins late in the season to keep their hopes alive. They will be hoping that last season’s late surge spills over into this year’s campaign as they seek the knock out trophy.
Clare’s hopes for championship glory last year was quite similar to that of their rivals today, and in the corresponding game in 1999, Clare defeated Westmeath by a whopping 10-point margin. Although, Westmeath have held the upper hand versus their opponents in recent times, I feel Clare will repeat their result, if not the actual score, from last year.
Senior Football Division 1
Cavan vs. Westmeath
Fresh off their victory in the annual sevens tournament, Westmeath will no doubt be brimming with confidence coming into this game. Seven’s is a different story, though. It remains to be seen whether they can defeat a side such as Kerry when the real work has to be done. All the same, it was a fine achievement, and gave the Westmeath selectors a good idea concerning how their team will gel together this year.
Having signed a number of players during the offseason, Cavan will hope to improve upon last year’s finishing. Last year, Cavan produced the second biggest shock of the season when they hammered Leitrim on opening day. The biggest shock, of course, came when Second Division Kerry won the Championship. Despite a fighting win over Monaghan, Cavan’s hopes ended prematurely last year, and they will be hoping for better this year. I’m sticking my neck way out and will predict a closely fought victory for Cavan.
Senior Football Division 2
Longford vs. Offaly
Both sides won five of their seven games last year, and finished fourth and second, respectively. Beaten in the Division 2 championship final by Monaghan in 1998, Longford will hope this to be third time lucky, having drawn Kerry in the final four last year. Offaly came good and surprised quite a few people with their fine victories, but I feel Longford will sneak this one.