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New York make big push for Tier 2 inclusion

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New York manager Gerry Fox oversees team training in Gaelic Park last week

New York manager Gerry Fox oversees team training in Gaelic Park last week

New York manager Gerry Fox oversees team training in Gaelic Park last week

New York have called on the GAA to allow them into the new Tier 2 championship this summer, saying they are willing to travel to Ireland to take part.

Galway will be in New York on the first weekend in May for the Connacht quarter-final meeting between the two sides in Gaelic Park and Padraic Joyce's men will be overwhelming favourites for that game. Defeat for the home side will bring down the curtain on their season, and there is a growing feeling in New York GAA circles that the current situation is no longer justifiable.

"We're probably the only team in sport that I can think of that trains for five months of the year to play one game of football," says Gerry Fox, manager of the New York team this year. "It's very hard to get lads to commit. Especially last year and this year, with Mayo and Galway - it's very hard to get lads to commit when you're playing Division One teams like that."

New York lost heavily to Mayo in last year's championship. "But prior to that," adds Fox, "we drew with Leitrim, Roscommon bet them by a point and I think Sligo bet them by five or six points, so New York have been fairly competitive."

Fox, originally from Ballinalee in Co Longford, has been deeply involved in the New York GAA scene for many years, managing Sligo to success in the local intermediate championship, and then to a senior title, in the last three years. He was also part of the New York backroom team - as trainer and strength and conditioning coach - when they lost by a late point in extra time to Leitrim two years ago. He sees a vibrant GAA community in New York and feels the time is right for access to more games to help develop the pool of talent.

"The structures for underage are in place," he says. "They do well in Féile competitions, going home, and that has been the way for the last number of years. There are some quality players out here. We have a good set-up. But it's just trying to get that second game - it would be much easier for us if we could get that second game.

"There's a bunch of Irish-American kids that we're trying to bring on. This is my first year and what we're trying to do is introduce more of the Irish-American kids, trying to get them more game time. But playing one game a year is not great. As I say, there is a huge amount of kids taking part and over the next four to six years you'll have a lot of those American kids coming through.

"As of right now there's a college team flew home last night," he continued. [That New York team defeated Cavan Institute on Friday by 2-9 to 2-8 in the Corn na Mac Leinn semi-final.] "Four teams flew home for the world games in Croke Park; there were three or four Féile teams home; the New York ladies team is flying home later in the year . . . There's an under 16 development squad flying home. The only team that doesn't fly home to play a game is the only team that creates the revenue in New York. That just seems a bit of a joke."

The new format, which replaces the back-door system, was voted in at a special congress last October, and will see teams from Division 3 and 4 of the league take part in a second-tier competition once they are knocked out of their provincial championship. The only exception is that teams from the two lower divisions who reach a provincial final will remain in the top tier.

"There are teams in Division 3 that could make a provincial final," he says. "If you make a provincial final you automatically go into Tier 1. I mean Cork, Derry or Down - any of them could make a provincial final, if they do then they are going into tier 1. You could end up with 17 teams in Tier 1, 15 in Tier 2.

"Our argument is that it's the first year of this competition. There's no guarantee how long it's going to last. Will we have Tier 2 for one year, two years, three years? Logistically it's not that big a deal for us to get in right now.

"We're definitely willing to travel home. We expect that we will have to travel home if we do get into it. It's also a competition where we feel we could be very competitive if we did get a run at it.

"If we become the first New York team to go home you'd be surprised at the amount of sponsorship that would come in, the amount of people that would want their name on the thing. For fundraising events I think it would be easy to get people behind it and give it a push."

The county board, he says, are advocating strongly with Croke Park officials and Fox remains "hopeful" that a deal can be done, although sources in the GAA seem less convinced it's a runner this year. Fox is full of praise for the work being done by Joan Henchy, who became New York GAA's first female board chairperson in December, and Larry McCarthy, who is one of five candidates looking to be elected the next GAA president at Congress later this month.

Fox has enlisted Galway hurler Johnny Glynn on his backroom team. "We have a two-year contract but we would hope to do it for three or four years," he says. "There's a great bunch of younger American kids coming through that are 18, 19, 20, so there's five or six or seven of them that could definitely come in. I'm not so sure about this year but in the next year or two they will be very close to starting, so half your team in a year or two could be Irish-American. There's some good talented young lads."

Sunday Indo Sport