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Donegal's Ross Wherity ready for a different kind of championship in 'crazy' New York

Mayo game is “do or die”, says one of the familiar faces on the New York team.

Wherity will start at wing-forward against Mayo in Gaelic Park, New York tomorrow.
Wherity will start at wing-forward against Mayo in Gaelic Park, New York tomorrow.
Image: John Riordan/New York GAA

HE’S THOUSANDS OF miles away but Ross Wherity knows he’ll feel right at home when he laces up his boots tomorrow.

Instead of pulling on the green and gold of Donegal, this time he will be in the red, white and blue of New York for the opening game of this year’s Connacht Championship.

The St Eunan’s clubman is set to start at wing-forward when his adopted county take on All-Ireland runners-up Mayo in Gaelic Park.

He’s the only Donegal native on Ian Galvin’s teamsheet, a 26-man squad that features representatives from no fewer than 11 different counties.

Some, like Wherity, are household names; former Laois star Brendan Quigley is team captain this year. One of the panel, youngster James Huvane, is a native New Yorker.

After graduating from DCU with a degree in law and economics — and after Donegal’s disappointing surrender of Sam Maguire last summer — Wherity decided the time was right to move to the Big Apple where he now works for a financial services company.

It wasn’t long before he fell into familiar habits.

“You are moving to one of the best cities, the craziest cities in the world,” he said this week.

You need football there in your life to keep you sane I think. You’re out partying and all that kind of stuff, but to get back down to the hard work it’s good to be grounded and have the lads around you.

“It’s a great network as well to have, to be able to rely upon all the boys there. Jobs-wise, it’s good for that there as well, contacts in the city, there is a lot of influence within the football. It is a great thing to have.”

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Ross Wherity and Paudie Kissane Wherity featured for Donegal in the 2013 league and championship. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

A string of hammerings in recent years has saddled New York with a reputation as whipping boys, to the extent that GAA President Liam O’Neill raised the issue of their future participation in the Connacht Championship earlier this year.

The suggestion stung the Exiles and in Galvin’s first year as manager, they are determined to give a good account of themselves.

“From the outset, Jim McGuinness just kept reiterating 26 May, 26 May to us,” Wherity recalls as he thinks back to last year.

“It was the same over here — 4 May, 4 May — everything’s geared towards that one day for us, especially over here where we don’t have a competitive game or we don’t have a back door system.

It’s really do or die on the day and putting it all into this one day. It’s the only reason why we are out there training in cold weather and the pissing rain.

“We are really looking forward to getting out there in the sunshine on Sunday and giving Mayo a good crack.”

galvin New York manager Ian Galvin is hoping to turn the tide after 24-point losses in the last two seasons. Source: John Riordan/New York GAA

Does a team that lost by 24 points to Leitrim and Sligo in the last two years really have a chance though?

“I have to say yes, don’t I? You are not playing this game to go out and get hammered by Mayo.

“Looking at the last few years I was surprised that the scores against the lesser teams were so bad, losing by 20, 22 points.

Mayo coming over here will really heighten our sense of the occasion. If you look back at the results New York have played better against Galway and Mayo – they are the two teams they nearly beat in the last five or six years.

“It’s the sense of occasion. They realise what’s in front of them and what they really need to achieve and so it brings the best out of players by all accounts.”

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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