Sligo in cross hairs as New York eye Connacht SFC shock

Gerard McCartan: Community around Gaelic Park is massive.

A one-point defeat by Roscommon brought a mix of pride and bitter disappointment to New York’s Gaelic football family last year, and it has whetted appetites for Sligo’s visit to Gaelic Park in Sunday’s Connacht SFC preliminary round tie.

New York came within a whisker of a massive shock when they faced the Rossies at this stage last year, though captain Gerard McCartan admits it still took time for the gloom of championship exit to lift.

“The initial feeling after any loss in the championship, you’re gutted. The more you thought about it as the weeks went on was it was so close but yet so far. At the end of the day, we were beaten by a point. It doesn’t matter if you’re beaten by 10 or 15, it doesn’t make much of a difference.”

They will be outsiders again on Sunday, but last year’s near-heroics have intensified anticipation among exiles.

“The community around Gaelic Park is massive. It is a good community and what we did last year has added to the interest. It is a big day anyway over here but what happened last year will add to that so there is a good atmosphere.”

The former Down star backed his manager Justin O’Halloran’s call for New York’s championship interest to be prolonged even if they lose these annual preliminary round ties.

“After any defeat you just want to get back onto the pitch as quickly as possible to right the wrongs. You want that opportunity to go out, you are champing at the bit. It should be the same as the championship at home; you understand the principles of it in that you are looking to get out and have a competitive game as soon as possible after (losing).”

Not that he is resigned to defeat on Sunday, claiming this is as good a New York panel as he has been involved with in his four years Stateside.

“We have had great squads over the last few years but this year I feel it’s probably the strongest, or on an even-par with last year. We’re well prepared, training is going well. The management team have us going in the right direction.”

Former Mayo footballer Tom Cunniffe and ex-Dublin hurler Danny Sutcliffe have been added to the New York setup this year. “They can only improve the squad,” said McCartan. “Having a lad like that [Cunniffe], with his experience, it’s great, it will push lads on. Danny is a natural athlete. He’s played at the highest level in hurling and now this is his chance to prove himself as a footballer. We’ll see come Sunday but so far I’ve been impressed.”

McCartan says a win on Sunday would be among the proudest moments of his career. He has grown to love life in his adopted home, but won’t rule out a return to Down colours.

“Initially it was tough but you just come out and come to love New York. I will tell you straight you don’t know what you are going to get. I took a leap of faith three or four years ago and thankfully I have enjoyed it. I would love to represent Down again but I have come out here and New York is my new county and that is the way that I treated it.

“I am going home to Ireland next year for a bit but I have to wait and see.”


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