By James McMahon
Leitrim get a taste of the Big Apple as the Connacht Championship gets under way in Gaelic Park.
Back in 2010, New York gave Galway a fright on their home patch; they haven’t been near as competitive since and last year shipped a heavy defeat to Sligo on the first Sunday in May.
As always, it’s a trip into the unknown for the respective Connacht counties. To that end, Leitrim have arrived in New York in good time, so as to get the feel of Gaelic Park’s 3G pitch.
Joint managers Barney Breen and George Dugdale enjoyed a decent 2012 championship with their charges once they recovered from a hammering by Mayo in the Connacht semi-final.
A first victory in the qualifiers over Wicklow was followed by a creditable showing against Laois that saw them lose narrowly.
2013 began with a success in the FBD Connacht League, though they failed to kick on in Allianz League Division 4, which was something of a disappointment.
However, the provincial draw has offered the real possibility that Leitrim could make it to the final, as Sligo and London stand between them and a place in the decider if they get past the Exiles this weekend.
CJ Molloy, son of the manager Connie, and Paul Lambe, are the only survivors on the New York team that saw championship action this time last year.
Offaly’s Jason Kelly has returned to the squad, with former Monaghan player Rory Woods in line to start if he recovers from a back injury.
Leitrim have been boosted by the return of goalkeeper Cathal McCrann, midfielder Wayne McKeon and forward Adrian Croal.
Emlyn Mulligan is the star man for the westerners – one of the most naturally gifted footballers in the country.
New York have failed to win match since they were admitted to their Connacht championship. The bookies have them at long odds to end that sequence.
Leitrim will want to set down a marker that they are good enough to have a lengthy summer campaign. Something their dedicated and loyal followers would want as they strive to be the last two standing in the battle to win their Nestor Cup for the first time since 2000.
Leitrim: Cathal McCrann, Alan Wynne, Fabian McMorrow, Paddy Maguire, Danny Beck, Gary Reynolds, Wayne McKeon, Tomas Beirne, Darren Sweeney, Paul Brennan, Emlyn Mulligan (c),Gerry Hickey, Kevin Conlon, James Glancy, Robbie Lowe.
New York (Club in brackets): Gavin Joyce (Cavan), Daniel Jackson (Tyrone), Mike O'Regan (Monaghan), Paul Lambe (Monaghan), Lonan Maguire (Monaghan), Keith Scally (Westmeath), Alan Rafferty (Cork), CJ Molloy (Donegal), Gary O'Driscoll (Kerry), Eoin Ward (Cavan), Jason Kelly (Cork), Conor Lynam (Donegal), Mickey Annett (Donegal), Rory Woods (Leitrim), Justin Burke (Monaghan).
Live radio coverage of the All-Ireland U21 Football Final, Galway v Cork, from 17:00 on Saturday 4 May on RTÉ RnaG and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide).
Live radio coverage of the Allianz NHL Final, Kilkenny v Tipperary, from 14:00 on Sunday 5 May on RTÉ Radio 1, RTÉ RnaG and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide). Highlights of all the weekend’s action on League Sunday on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only) from 20:00.