THE Mayo senior football team were due to arrive in New York around 7.30pm (Irish time) this evening (Thursday) to begin the countdown to Sunday’s Connacht SFC quarter-final at Gaelic Park.
Team management, most of the players who are making the trip, members of the backroom team, and a number of County Board officials were scheduled to leave from Dublin Airport on a six and a half hour flight around 1pm today.
They – and the thousands of Mayo supporters who landed from Shannon and Dublin at JFK and Newark Airports today - were greeted by glorious sunshine with temperatures of around 23 degrees Celsius in the New York City.
However, rain showers and cooler temperatures are currently forecast for next Sunday afternoon around the time of the novel championship clash in the Bronx, which throws-in at 2.15pm (7.15pm Irish time).
However, that is highly unlikely to dampen the enthusiasm of the huge Mayo crowd that have descended on New York for a Mayo Gathering’ over the May Bank Holiday weekend.
As reported in The Mayo News earlier this week, Mayo captain Diarmuid O’Connor will miss Sunday’s game, after the 24 year-old sustained a facial injury in training last week following an accidental collision.
Depending on the extent of the injury, O’Connor could face a race against time to be fit for a provincial semi-final against Leitrim or Roscommon on Saturday, May 25 in Castlebar – assuming Mayo overcome the Exiles.
James Horan has named three championship debutants in his team to take on New York – James McCormack from Claremorris; Matthew Ruane from Breaffy and James Carr from Ardagh, who becomes the first player from the North Mayo club to play senior inter-county championship football for the county.
Keith Higgins has also been named in the team, despite nursing an ankle injury in recent weeks, but Cillian O’Connor, Fionn McDonagh and Seamus O’Shea all miss out as they continue their rehab from injury, while Donal Vaughan is another notable absentee.
The likes of Michael Plunkett, Ciaran Treacy, Brian Reape and Conor Diskin are among the other players in line to make their senior championship debuts this weekend, if they feature at any stage.
The Mayo News understands that Mayo’s entire championship squad are due to be in New York before Sunday’s game, ahead of a training camp next week.
Sunday’s match is expected to attract a capacity crowd of around 4,500 people to Gaelic Park, with New York GAA secretary, Joan Henchy, confirming on Twitter earlier this week that a number of tickets will be on general sale on Sunday morning.
Connacht GAA secretary, John Prenty, told The Mayo News last week that he expected the number of tickets on general sale before the match to be between ‘300 and 500’.
Meanwhile, James Horan and his management team, along with members of the squad, and County Board officials, chairman Mike Connelly, vice-chairman Seamus Tuohy, secretary Dermot Butler and PRO Paul Cunnane, who is also the senior team liaison officer to the County Board, are all due to attend tomorrow night’s (Friday’s) black-tie fundraiser event in a five-star hotel in the heart of New York City.
The Gala is being organised by the Mayo GAA International Supporters’ Foundation, with individual tickets costing €1,000 each, and tables ranging from €10,000 to €25,000.
The event is regarded as a major opportunity to raise funds for a number of strategic Mayo GAA projects, including the proposed Training Centre at a site in Lough Lannagh, Castlebar.
Mayo team to play New York
R Hennelly; C Barrett, B Harrison, K Higgins; P Durcan, L Keegan, J McCormack; M Ruane, A O’Shea; E Regan, J Doherty, F Boland; K McLoughlin, D Coen, J Carr.