To the untrained eye, the victors’ dressing-room was the one with ‘Home’ written above it.
As Roscommon’s players skulked away from Gaelic Park feeling relief that could so easily have been ridicule, the hosts were popping bottle caps.
New York came within a breath of unceremoniously piercing their vaunted visitors’ balloon in the first game of the 2016 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship.
It was bitter, but it was sweet too.
“I think if we had another minute or two we would have won it,” said manager Justin O’Halloran as he sipped a well-deserved beer.
“I couldn’t be prouder of that team. I said it last week and probably a few people laughed at me but I knew what we had here. We have a group of bloody good footballers — they can play the system that we asked them to play.They fed into that system and never wandered. Even when Roscommon were coming running at us, we kept our lines and didn’t panic. A lot of teams would have folded away after half-time. We knew if we got the first score after half-time, we’d put pressure on them. We ended up kicking more scores than Roscommon — they had 16, we had 17. We just didn’t get the onion bag.”
Heroes littered the field for the ex-pat hosts. Luke Loughlin and Brian Connor had wrecked havoc in the half-forward line. But their stirring display started much further back with goalkeeper Vinny Cadden in inspired form. The man of the match insisted that while a historic win may have slipped by, this was the ultimate validation of New York’s place in the Championship.
“There’s a lot of giving out about this game. How big a joke it is and all that. But you need to come here and see the game. Especially the game we’re after putting on here,” said the Sligoman, who stopped six-goal chances.
“I’ve been involved in so many games through the years and I’ve never found myself so excited on a pitch. The passion that was shown was sensational.
“Anyone who looks back at this game will see why the [New York] game should keep going ahead annually. We’ll look forward to next year and start aiming towards that.”
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