by James McMahon
It may not be the high-profile start many would have wanted, but the 2009 GAA Football Championship gets underway in Gaelic Park on Sunday when New York host Mayo in the Connacht Championship.
Many prominent figures in New York GAA have come out strongly in favour of the Exiles’ participation in the Connacht race.
In recent seasons, they have put up valiant efforts against the likes of Roscommon, Leitrim, and Sligo, and manager Eugene Kyne expects New York to be just as competitive against John O'Mahony’s men.
Now into year three of his second coming with Mayo, O'Mahony has given Kevin McLoughlin, Donal Vaughan, Aidan O'Shea and Ger Cafferkey their championship debuts as he strives to mould a team that can seriously challenge for honours this term.
The return of Trevor Howley - coming in at centre-back - and Andy and Barry Moran’s presence in the full-forward line, along with the impressive Tom Parsons in midfield, in time may give Mayo the edge in terms of winning a provincial crown. And if that hurdle is jumped the green and red faithful will expect their team to be competitive in the All Ireland series.
The game in New York will serve as a gentle introduction to what lies ahead. If you are looking for a bet with regard to the winning margin, I'd say Mayo to prevail by 12 points, with all players looking to impress a manager who is used to success.
Whether or not some form of silverware comes Mayo's way in 2009 remains to be seen.