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Dublin: 15 °C Thursday 22 August, 2019
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'I'd love to represent Down again but I've come out here and New York is my new county'

Gerard McCartan is hoping to lead his side to a historic victory against Sligo on Sunday.

New York defender Gerard McCartan.
New York defender Gerard McCartan.

NEW YORK CAPTAIN Gerard McCartan may have a couple of regrets but moving to the Big Apple isn’t one of them.

The former Down senior footballer has an impressive pedigree, having played league football with the Mourne men and having led St Mary’s Burren to a county title when just out of his teens.

The 2010 Down final was an emotional occasion laced with elation and relief in equal measure. Having opted out of the county panel to focus on club football earlier in the year, McCartan had put all his eggs in one basket.

He could only watch on regretfully as Martin Clarke and Co put together a remarkable championship run that culminated in a one-point All-Ireland final defeat to Cork — wondering if he could have made a difference, whether he made the right call to step away.

But his decision was vindicated one month later when he lifted the Frank O’Hare Cup above his head at Páirc Esler

Six-and-a-half years on, McCartan is hoping to lead his adopted county to a first championship win on Sunday (throw-in at 8.15pm Irish time) and the defender believes a victory against Sligo would match any of his successes to date.

“Being such underdogs, it would be a great achievement,” McCartan explains ahead of his fourth Connacht championship game in the blue, white and red of New York.

It would be up there with one of the proudest moments of my football career.

Last year’s one-point defeat to Roscommon earned New York plenty of plaudits but that was of little consolation to McCartan. It was a tough one to swallow.

“The initial feeling after any loss in the championship, you’re gutted,” he recalls.

“The more you thought about it as the weeks went on was that it was so close but yet so far.

“We were beaten by a point. Getting beaten by a point or 10 points, it doesn’t make much of a difference. You’re going out to perform and you want to go out and win.”

Gerard McCartan with Cillian O'Connor Gerard McCartan in action against Cillian O'Connor in 2014. Source: Andy Marlin/INPHO

This Connacht preliminary round fixture is generally seen as merely a ceremonial clash to mark the start of the All-Ireland football championship.

But this year’s tie, on the back of the game at Gaelic Park 12 months ago and Sligo’s mixed form in Division 3, is expected to be competitive.

The addition of former Mayo and Castlebar Mitchels defender Tom Cunniffe and ex-Dublin hurling All-Star Danny Sutcliffe has strengthened manager Justin O’Halloran’s hand this season and McCartan is brimming with confidence ahead of Sunday’s showdown.

“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.

“Guys like Tom Cunniffe and Sutcliffe, they can only improve the squad.

“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 is unsure what the future holds and how long he will stay Stateside. He yearns to wear the red and black of Down again one day but has no doubt he made the right call to move across the Atlantic Ocean a few years ago.

“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 on a three-year visa at the minute. I am going home to Ireland next year for a bit but I have to wait and see [about a permanent return]. There is every possibility.”

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Alan Waldron

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