In a New York state of mind

PJ Banville (Wexford) pictured at Times Square. Banville will line out for New York this weekend. Picture: John Riordan/New York GAA

Just when PJ Banville thought he was out, he was pulled back in. As soon as New York football boss Ian Galvin heard the former Wexford forward was visiting the Big Apple as part of his travels this year, he worked the charm offensive.

“I was here in the summer and I really liked it so I said I’d come back for a while. Ian was onto me and about playing.

“When the opportunity came I said, ‘Will I or won’t I?’ I love football that much. I did miss it as well. It’s hard just to not play football, to give up for one year and just do nothing.

“It’s nice, it’s a change as well. I wanted to take a year out and still I’m getting to play my football. I’m not losing fitness, I’m still keeping in shape. It’s keeping me occupied as well.”

The Horeswood man will lead the New York forward line in Gaelic Park tomorrow afternoon. He’s no fly-by-nighter, having been a regular at training sessions from January onwards.

The pull of an historic win over Galway and he’ll be available for the clash with Leitrim. Lose, though, and he and his girlfriend will likely head for Mexico or Peru.

But let there be no doubt Banville is intent on staying, having struck up a great rapport with the panel. He’s also aware from speaking to the Irish long exiled in the city of how much a victory would mean to ex-pats.

“Talking to a few older people around here, it’d mean so much to them. They put in so much over the years and to get that win for them and making history would be great.

“There’s no reason why we can’t win. 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 joys 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.”

With some difficulty, Banville looked on from afar this spring as Wexford dropped to Division 4. He understands David Power is overseeing a transitional process. He left home, and his football friends, with a heavy heart.

“It wasn’t easy. It was a hard decision to go. The way I looked at it, I was at an age where I had to decide ‘do I want to go travelling for a year?’ Maybe a year or two later and it could be too late to go. I was there 10 years. I was after giving 10 years so I thought the time was right to take a year out and maybe freshen myself up and then maybe go back next year and see how it goes.

“I haven’t ruled out not going back. The manager understood my decision and left the door open. We’ll see what the future holds.”

Banville is glad to dispel some of the preconceived notions about New York football. He might have been told a yarn or two about how aggressive the game can be in the city but can now vouch those scare stories are not true.

“I think people look too much into that. People are saying rough football. I don’t like rough football and I’m here playing but I don’t see it as rough. That’s being honest. There’s games at home that would be a quare lot rougher. 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. Yeah, they play it hard and they play it fair but I don’t think it is rough.”

It won’t be a heavy brand of physicality against a well-conditioned Galway side that will help New York tomorrow. Intensity, though, will be key and Banville is glad they will at least be battle-hardened, having played Cavan twice in three days last month.

“There’s big confidence in this group. It was great to get two games — training was going well but we never really knew where we stood. It’s hard when you don’t play any matches. For anyone that was in Gaelic Park that Thursday night, if you went in and you didn’t know which group of players were which, it would have been hard to figure out that Cavan were the county team.

“We had a good game but we were beaten by a late goal. It’s a game we should have won but there was a lot of positives out of it. There were a few things we have to work on but that’s good.”


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