Friday 23 February 2018

Start spreading the news - New York have a chance, says Banville

Ex-Wexford footballer PJ Banville in New York, where he now lives
Ex-Wexford footballer PJ Banville in New York, where he now lives
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

It will be weird to see his bleached locks roaming in anything other than the purple and gold but PJ Banville will be wearing very different colours in the north Bronx tomorrow.

The Horeswood star was part of the Wexford team that made the All-Ireland semi-finals in 2008 and has played for the Yellowbellies for 10 years.

But a summer in New York last year, after they had bowed out of the championship, made him decide to take a bigger bite out of the Big Apple.

His current stay is part of a planned world tour with his girlfriend and he freely admits that, if they lose to Galway in the Connacht SFC opener tomorrow, they will head south pretty quickly, probably to Mexico or Peru.

But Gaelic football has kept him anchored to one spot for the moment and, like everyone else on the Exiles' considerably talented panel, he knows what outsiders think - that New York will try and rough up their visitors but Galway will still prevail.

"I don't know where people are coming from on this," he counters.

"I used to think that myself before I came out and you'd hear stories but I don't think it is all that rough. I don't like rough football and I'm here playing! Yeah, they play it hard and they play it fair but I don't think it is rough. There's games at home that would be quare rougher."

New York certainly have some players with serious inter-county pedigree and Banville was as big an acquisition for them as he was a loss to Wexford.

He says he simply decided the time was right to take a year out to explore the world and has not ruled out a return to the county colours.

"The manager (David Power) understood my decision and left the door open so we'll see what the future holds."

Travel always broadens the mind and he's seen first-hand the commitment made by New York's tightly-knit players and manager Ian Galvin.

"It's tough for the lads come February or March with the snow and training called off but they still got into gyms and worked hard.

"It's easy for people to shy away from training when they're working but they still made the commitment to get there and trained hard. Hopefully that'll all be an advantage to us on Sunday."

Another considerable help was their recent two home games against Cavan in the commemorative 'Mick Higgins' series.

The Breffnis won the second comfortably but they only nicked the first with a late goal.

"It was great to get two games in because, to be honest, I thought training was going well but we never really knew where we stood," Banville admits.

"There was a lot of positives out of it and it gave us a lot of confidence."

He has seen first-hand now the part the GAA plays in those for whom emigration was never a choice. "Talking to a few older people around here, it'd mean so much to them. They put in so much over many years and to get that win for them, and make that bit of history, would be great.

"I feel there's no reason why we can't," Banville stresses.

"Galway are a very good team and we'll give them a lot of respect as well but, it's like this: on any given day, anything can happen.

"That's the joy of sport, any kind of sport! If the favourites won every day they went out, there'd be no point in anybody playing. It's all on the day, anything can happen."

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