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'I'll always be true to my county but this will be different, I'll wear the New York jersey with pride'

Vinny Cadden is hoping to inflict an embarrassing defeat on his former side tonight.

New York goalkeeper Vinny Cadden in action against Roscommon last year.
New York goalkeeper Vinny Cadden in action against Roscommon last year.
Image: Ed Mulholland

WHEN VINNY CADDEN puts the size 5 O’Neills on the tee and looks up to assess his options at Gaelic Park tonight, he’ll see a lot of familiar faces.

The New York goalkeeper and vice-captain is one of three Sligo men on the Exiles’ panel and having played for the Yeats County as recently as 2012, he possesses valuable knowledge on the majority of Niall Carew’s squad.

A proud Sligo man, Cadden finds himself in a peculiar spot as he aims to inflict an embarrassing defeat on his native county that would surely mark a low-point in their footballing history.

Allegiances will be left on the sideline when he crosses the whitewash in New York tonight (8.15pm throw-in Irish time, live RTÉ Radio 1) and bids to help Justin O’Halloran’s charges claim a historic victory.

The relentless slagging on WhatsApp with former team-mates is done and Cadden is desperate to face Sligo with the hope of easing the pain from the gut-wrenching, one-point defeat to Roscommon 12 months ago.

“I will always be true to my own county and support them when I can but this will be different,” insists Cadden. ”I will be wearing the New York jersey with pride.

It is strange to think that Sligo are coming out to play here but I am looking forward to it now. Preparations and training have been going well.

The visiting panel are well-known to Cadden, who moved Stateside last year before producing a man-of-the-match display against the Rossies.

“I would have been clubmates with a good few of them [Sligo players] and I would have played with a lot of the rest of them.

“A few of the young lads that came in I wouldn’t have, but I know them from playing club football back home.”

Vinny Cadden defends his goal New York goalkeeper Vinny Cadden makes a save against Roscommon. Source: Ed Mulholland/INPHO

Former Coolera-Strandhill goalkeeper Cadden name-checks former club-mate Niall Murphy as one of Sligo’s biggest stars, although the prolific attacker hasn’t recovered sufficiently from a hamstring injury to make their starting XV. His former club-mate Keelan Cawley has been named at wing-back by Carew.

“Any one of the forwards [are dangerous], I know how good they can be from playing with them and playing against them at club level.

“The likes of Stephen Coen and Kyle Cawley are great finishers. I know Niall Murphy is struggling for fitness at the moment, he is another big name but there are a lot of big names on that team.”

It was through Coolera-Strandhill that Cadden found himself between the sticks for New York in the first place, relishing the chance to play his first All-Ireland senior championship match, having previously lined out in league and FBD games for Sligo.

“A few of my clubmates were here last year and they put me in contact with Justin. Once I made that phone call to Justin, everything else just fell into place.”

The former Sligo minor and U21 nearly began his senior inter-county championship career with an upset for the ages, Cadden making numerous saves to keep Roscommon at bay.

Despite his heroic performance, the man-of-the-match gong was of little consolation afterwards as he sat down in a depleted dressing room. The one that got away, a first-half penalty from Roscommon’s Ciaran Murtagh, is still a bugbear from the 1-15 to 0-17 defeat.

“I was delighted with how I played but from one to 15, everyone put in a marvellous shift. It was just unfortunate that we fell short.

It was such a sinking feeling after losing by one point and then you are thinking if we had taken that score or if I had made that save it could all have been different.

“This conversation would be a lot different if I had saved that penalty.

“There was a sinking feeling all right but it also encouraged everyone to build on it and we are going in with all guns blazing this year now.”

There are excitable whispers around the country, except in Yeats territory of course, that this fixture could get the All-Ireland football championship off to an explosive start, rather than the usual whimper this ceremonial fixture generates.

The exiled Sligo trio has no shortage of inside information. The contingent is made up of Cadden, club player Colin Keane (who hasn’t made the match-day 26) and Eoin Flanagan (on the bench), who also faced Roscommon in the championship last year — lining out at corner-back for the Yeats men in their 4-16 to 2-13 Connacht semi-final defeat.

Flanagan then started at wing-back in Sligo’s 2-15 to 0-10 qualifier victory against Leitrim before returning to the corner for the 2-17 to 0-13 loss to Clare in the next round. Less than 12 months later, he is also hoping to inflict an embarrassing defeat on his former team-mates.

Eoin Flanagan Eoin Flanagan. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Sligo’s mixed league form in Division 3 raises alarms, as does the absence of Murphy, and defenders Kevin McDonnell, Luke Nicholson and Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch due to college exams.

Having said that, rarely, if ever, have New York’s chances been talked up so much, and last year’s result should eliminate any sniff of complacency from the visitors, who have been training on astro turf in preparation for Gaelic Park’s artificial surface.

“No team wants to be the first one to lose here,” reasons Cadden.

“I was talking to the lads at home and they were telling me that is the way it is; they leave absolutely nothing to chance and the training on astro turf is just one of the little details which they have addressed, outside of that they have a lot of homework done as well.”

Time will tell if they’ve done enough.

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Alan Waldron

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