Category: Archive

N.Y. tackle Leitrim with eye on history

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Last season’s match followed a winter filled with controversies regarding the Gaelic Park pitch, notably the softball diamond, and Sligo’s willingness to travel 3,000 miles to compete in the Connaght Championship.
This year’s main talking point, in New York at least, has been the weather. While Leitrim have quietly gone about their business enjoying a fairly successful league campaign, New York have been hampered by horrendous weather conditions.
Leslie McGettigan took the managerial reins last autumn along with selectors Frank Brady and Monty Maloney. Their first outing versus Galway in the FBD Cup last October was an unmitigated disaster. The young Galway side trounced New York, 5-11 to 0-6, at Gaelic Park, but with the Gotham squad now in the championship, competitors like the FBD Cup have a distinct second-fiddle feel to them.
With almost seven months to get ready for the championship, there was no panic in the New York camp. All New York teams are at a disadvantage versus Irish teams when it comes to match practice. That handicap was compounded this winter when practice fields were unplayable for months.
McGettigan concedes that “preparations have been terrible, the worst in years in terms of ball work.” With little opportunity to play football, New York has concentrated on fitness, running on the track, on the roads, anywhere and everywhere. The Donegal man likes the results. “Frank Brady has been training the team and he has them as fit as any New York team has ever been,” McGettigan said.
The team that will represent New York on Sunday will be a different one from the squad that gave Sligo all it could handle last may. As many as eight of this year’s starting 15 will be different. Huge changes will be seen in the key central positions. Fullback Owen Cummins, center back Johnny O’Driscoll, center fielder Martin Coll, center forward Noel McPartland, and full forward Michael Slowey are all unavailable. Martin Slowey has also recently left the panel.
Who will McGettigan and company turn to fill so many spots? Clare’s Paul O’Connor, who started in the No. 7 jersey against Sligo, appears to have nailed down the full back slot. Kevin Newell will receive consideration at center back, a spot he manned in the FBD match.
McGettigan seems comfortable with the combination of Jason Killeen and Ken O’Connor at midfield, especially with Dave McSweeney battling an ankle injury. McSweeney could be available off the bench.
McGettigan believes that the forwards may be more balanced than last year’s group, which was largely built around Michael Slowey. Eddie Reilly will be counted on to provide scoring from the full forward spot. Captain Kevin Lilly, the ever-dangerous Bingo O’Driscoll, and former Meath U-21 Brian Newman are likely to join Reilly in the front six.
High-flying Gary Dowd may be grounded with a fractured toe, although he recently returned to practice. Dowd figured to contribute, possibly at center forward but if he is limited by the toe McGettigan may opt to use him off the bench.
Leading the New York team onto the pitch will be Captain Kevin Lilly. It is quite an honor for the native New Yorker. The 31-year-old Lilly appears to be in the shape of his life and is looking forward to Sunday. He is well aware of the battle ahead and excited by his captaincy. “This,” says Lilly, “is a close team and there are a lot of captains out there.
No one in the New York camp underestimates the challenge ahead, but there is a relaxed confidence about the team. For McGettigan it is simple enough. “New York has made bad mistakes in the past and they have cost us,” he said. “If we eliminate those errors and get off to a fast start, we will have a good chance.”

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