New York bank on military training to gun down Mayo
In their centenary year, there was always likely to be a big push from New York.
They've been building to tomorrow's Connacht championship clash with Mayo all year, with chairman Liam Bermingham hailing the set-up as the most professional they have had.
New York captain Brendan Quigley – a former AFL hopeful – echoes those sentiments. The former Laois midfielder was expecting a different environment when, with carpentry work scarce at home, he decided to head Stateside.
"I didn't know what to expect," Quigley says. "Looking at the results over the last few years, I would have thought it wasn't quite up to the standard of training at home. But we're hoping this year we can change the trend and put up a good performance against Mayo.
"Training over here has been very professional. We have gym programmes and all the lads train three nights a week. It wasn't that much of a change."
Preparations have stepped up a level in recent weeks. Manager Ian Galvin brought his side to famed US military academy West Point for a training weekend and they hope to make that an annual event.
The underage system produced a Feile Division 2-winning side a couple of years ago and they want to compete in the top flight.
Reports say the trip for the 41-strong Mayo travelling part will cost an estimated €65,000 and despite some heavy reversals recently, Connacht chiefs have made it clear the New York clash will remain a feature of their year.
The Exiles' chances of putting in a strong performance look better than recent years. Quigley partners former London player and Galway native Alan Raftery at midfield. Ross Wherity, who looked to be one of the finds of last season for Donegal, starts at wing-forward, while Down's Keith Quinn will lead the line from full-forward.
On the bench, Westmeath's Tommy Warburton and Meath's Niall Farrell are options, while sub goalkeeper Ray Coyle togs out against his native county.
However, the roadblocks for New York are obvious. Meaningful challenges are hard to come by.
The annual turnover of players is usually dramatic. And if they were to win their first game since entering the competition in 1999, it's unclear how many could return home for the next match.
Comments from GAA president Liam O'Neill were interpreted as calling into question the Exiles' continued participation in the championship. The Laois man moved to clear up the confusion and insists their place is safe.
Perhaps Bermingham's insistence that the game was "not just a football match" is the only justification required.
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