The formulaic media set-piece that is the launch of the championship took place yesterday. Players, including Aidan O’Shea, were rolled out to provide material for copy for the hacks in attendance, there were plenty of photos and, in this regard, there was some coloured smoke deployed to jolly along the visual side of things. But, this being the championship with its now ludicrous, creaking super-structure, there remains the sad fact that there’s precious little to get excited about in terms of the matches that’ll be played between now and the August Bank Holiday weekend.
Aidan’s contribution to the proceedings (cue the usual miaowing from the same predictable quarters about one doing one’s talking on the field etc. etc. etc.) is covered in various outlets. Take your pick from GAA, RTÉ, The 42, Irish Independent (which is interesting as it touches on the Holmes/Connelly brouhaha from last December), Irish Examiner, Irish Times.
In due course, we’ll have the provincial championship launches to look forward to. In that regard, I can’t wait to hear Jim Gavin once more prattling on enthusiastically about what a great Gaelic institution the Leinster championship is, replete with such fierce manly competition and great tradition and how his charges are so looking forward to seeing once more what things look like beyond the M50 at this time of year.
In fairness to Connacht, there’s a competitive provincial championship to be fought over. Granted, it’s not the cat-fight that occurs annually up in Ulster but neither is it the pointless cakewalk that Leinster has been for years and which Munster now appears to have turned into as well. Unique among the big beasts of this year’s championship, we’re not heading into the summer defending any provincial silverware.
The odds reflect this fact: while we’re 4/5 to reclaim the Nestor Cup (with both Galway and Roscommon on offer at 11/4), Dublin are 1/16 to win out yet again in Leinster, while Kerry are 1/4 to claim their fifth Munster title in a row (and their 79th in all). The competitive nature of the Ulster championship, meanwhile, is reflected in the pricing of Tyrone as 7/4 favourites, with Donegal at 11/4 and Monaghan 4/1. Paddy Power odds here.
As usual, of course, it’s Connacht where the action begins and, like every other year, that start will occur 3,000 miles away over in Gaelic Park, New York. This year the Yanks will entertain Sligo and the match throws in at Gaelic Park this coming Sunday evening at 8.15pm Irish time (3.15pm local time). RTÉ have confirmed that they’ll provide live radio commentary on the game on Radio 1. The bad news is that Marty Morrissey will be behind the mic.
Every county is well aware aeons in advance about when they’re next in line for the Big Apple junket. This makes Niall Carew’s bitching about the scheduling of the game for this coming weekend so hard to fathom. Sure, it’s hard on them that exams are going to rob them of a few players and Sligo aren’t endowed with the richest pick at the best of times but the date for this game has been known for ages so it’s not as if it has been sprung on the Yeatsmen at the last minute.
The Sligo manager is, though, right to be a mite skittish about how Sunday’s fixture will go. Roscommon narrowly avoided the shock of the century over there last year and the 2/7 odds on offer for a Sligo win on Sunday reflect the fact that while the visitors are strong favourites there’s still a match there to be won. (By contrast, Louth are priced at a measly 1/6 to beat Longford in Leinster in a few weeks time).
New York appear to sense the fear as well. Manager Justin O’Halloran reckons it’s only a matter of time before they finally take out one of the domestic counties in Connacht and they’re aiming for that day to come this Sunday. With Tom Cunniffe and ex-Dublin hurler Danny Sutcliffe playing for them now (full NY panel details here) and two hard games against Donegal under their belts, the Yanks look well set to make life difficult for the Magpies at the weekend.
They also have their sights set on becoming more embedded into the championship itself. Justin O’Halloran reckons (piece on this here) that New York should be afforded the same back-door rights London enjoy and he believes that the visa issue would not prove an obstacle to his team travelling to the oul’ sod to fulfil a qualifier fixture. Nor, then, should it be any impediment to the Yanks (including Tom) playing us at MacHale Park on Sunday fortnight were the unthinkable happen over in Gaelic Park.
But will this happen? You’ve seen the match odds, you’ve read the coverage so which way do you think it’ll go over in the Big Apple on Sunday?
Who'll win on Sunday?
- New York (51%, 185 Votes)
- Sligo (49%, 175 Votes)
Total Voters: 360