Saturday 16 December 2017

Sligo on high alert over New York threat


New York manager Justin O'Halloran. Photo: Dáire Brennan/Sportsfile
New York manager Justin O'Halloran. Photo: Dáire Brennan/Sportsfile

Martin Breheny and Michael Verney

Roscommon's close call with humiliation last year has put Sligo on high alert for tomorrow's clash with New York in the preliminary round of the Connacht Football Championship in Gaelic Park (8.15 Irish time).

A late burst last year took New York to within a point of the Rossies, who had played in the Division 1 Allianz League semi-finals a month earlier, leaving the Exiles desperately disappointed over failing to pull off what would have been one of the biggest shocks in Championship history.

A year on, optimism is soaring in New York that their 19th season in the Connacht Championship can yield its first victory against a below-strength Sligo side, without exam-tied Kevin McDonnell and Gerard O'Kelly-Lynch and the injured Niall Murphy.

Sligo finished fourth in Division 3 and, in normal circumstances, would expect to win quite comfortably but the combination of a weakened squad and a surge of confidence in New York have left Niall Carew and his squad wary.

Among the well-known names on the New York side are former Mayo defender Tom Cunniffe, Dublin hurler Danny Sutcliffe, Conor McGraynor (Wicklow), Ross Wherity (Donegal) and Eugene McVerry (Armagh).

New York entered the Connacht Championship for the first time in 1999 and have lost four times each to Galway, Mayo and Roscommon and three times to Sligo and Leitrim.

They do have a proud history in the National League, having won the title in 1950, '64 and '67, beating Cavan, Dublin and Galway in the finals. Dublin and Galway, who had completed the three-in-a-row in 1966, were reigning All-Ireland champions.

Tomorrow's winners will play Mayo in the Connacht quarter-final on May 21. If New York lose, they will play no further part in the championship while a defeat for Sligo would leave them facing a preliminary round qualifier in June.

SLIGO - A Devaney; R Donavan, C Harrison, E McHugh; Keelan Cawley, B Egan, J Kelly; C Breheny, A McIntyre; N Ewing, M Breheny, Kyle Cawley; S Coen, P Hughes, A Marren.

Irish Independent

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