By Mike Fitzpatrick
In this, the opening game in the two-match series between the All-Ireland newcomers New York and the Irish Army, the visitors threatened to steal the show Friday night at Gaelic Park.
With the embarrassment of riches their side has to offer, it seemed at times that the score would reach astronomical levels for the Army side. It is a credit to manager Frank Brady and his selectors, Pat Scanlon and Leslie McGettigan, that New York provided a fighting performance worthy of All-Ireland status. The team looked fit, and but for a few rough edges to be smoothed out, should be well capable of more than holding their own when it really matters on May 29 vs. Mayo in Castlebar. Brady was pleased with the performance, stating that considering this was the first time the New York side had played together, it should help to bring the side on a lot in terms of playing as a unit.
On a rain-swept evening at Gaelic Park, the Army side took an early lead with points from Jim Gavin, Brian Walsh and midfield ace Kevin Earley. New York took time to settle down, and considering the atrocious weather conditions did not fare too badly. The downpour continued throughout the game, where we witnessed normally skillful footballers make mistakes due to the fall of the ball and the slippery conditions.
A backline containing the likes of Fergal Costelloe, Anthony Rainbow and Mark O’Connor, all at ease whether attacking or defending, was always going to be difficult for the home side to penetrate. Eventually though, after further scores from the Army’s Brennan and Walsh, New York arrived belatedly on the scoresheet thanks to some good work from Leitrim’s Neville Dunne and Gary Dowd of Donegal who both hit points. Kevin Lilly notched another for New York near the interval, but Padraig Brennan slipped in to hit a goal for the Army team.
Further scores from Rainbow and Walsh left New York trailing by nine points and hope was diminishing. A second-half performance, however, helped stem the flow, with Lilly scoring a goal and Keaveney and Enda Henry nabbing points, to give a more respectable air to their sides tally. Danny Leavy hit the bar and minutes later Army goalie Noel Finn denied Stephen Cassidy a goal with a fine save. A surging New York comeback was lessened eventually by the antics of Rainbow and Co. who blocked further efforts from Mike Martin, Cookie Meehan and Cassidy. It’s all to play for on Sunday, and let’s hope the weather is a little better.
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New York: Emmet Haughian, Keith Hennessy, Sean Teague, Bonnie Duffy, Neville Dunne (0-1), Richie Purcell, Donal Breslin, Willie O’Donnell, Gary Dowd (0-1), Danny Leavy, Enda Henry (0-2), Kieran Keaveney (0-1), Kevin Lilly (1-2), Stephen Cassidy, Eddie Murphy. Subs: Danny O’Sullivan, Pierce Coyle, Joe Cassidy, John Meehan, Mike Martin.
Army: Noel Finn, Enda McGuane, Nigel Campbell, Niall Twomey, Anthony Rainbow (0-1), Mark O’Connor, Fergal Costelloe (0-1), Dermot Earley (0-1), Tom Ryan, Jim Gavin (0-5), Brian Walsh (0-3), Ed McDonagh, Padraig Brennan (1-1), Mick Smith, Kieran Carey. Subs: Patrick Kirk, John Finn, Neville Murphy, Eddie McDonagh, Conor O’Shea.