As a large number of Sligo GAA fans prepare to travel today, and during the week to New York, for the opening Connaght Championship game, a row has broken out over the date of the fixture and its effect on team numbers.Sligo have been hit with a series of significant withdrawals from Sunday's game (May 7th) with manager Niall Carew criticising the scheduling of the fixture.
Niall Murphy, the county's most prolific forward, is expected to miss the game with a hamstring tear but it's the loss of two exam-tied students - full-back Kevin McDonnell and half-back Gerard O'Kelly-Lynch - which has really perplexed Carew.Independent.ie reports that the NUIG pair sit exams on Monday morning next and won't be in the US as they stay at home to prepare.
O'Kelly-Lynch was a driving force behind Sligo's run to the Connacht U-21 final which they lost to Galway after extra-time, and was arguably the senior side's most consistent player in the League.
The loss of this trio has left Carew dealing with a "nightmare" scenario as they face such a tricky assignment against the improving exiles, who have stepped up preparations with two matches against visiting Donegal in the middle of April.
ClaimsCarew claims that there was no proper consultation over this fixture with the players - "the major stakeholders" - describing the situation as "ludicrous".
He pointed out that normally this fixture is played on the May Bank Holiday weekend, which would have left McDonnell and O'Kelly-Lynch available. But with the game now pushed back a week from its normal slot they have been inconvenienced.
"There was no consultation with us in terms of the fixture. It's cast in stone, this is the way it is. It's on that weekend and that's it," said Carew."We flagged the issues with the Connacht Council, the Gaelic Players Association and the college but no-one would do anything for us."
Carew revealed that three other students were deferring their exams until August but neither McDonnell or O'Kelly-Lynch were in a position to do this.
Murphy has a grade two hamstring tear and has only resumed jogging.
After last year's scare for Roscommon in New York, Sligo have been leaving nothing to chance with their preparation and have trained exclusively on astro-turf pitches at the Connacht Council GAA centre in Bekan, and on St Loman's GAA pitch in Mullingar in preparation for Gaelic Park.
"Since the end of the League we've only trained on astro. The problem is no-one wants to play challenges on astro," said Carew."It's a definite advantage to New York, the fact that they play on it so often and have had a couple of recent challenges against Donegal at the venue."
Carew said he has consulted Roscommon manager Kevin McStay on his experience in the Big Apple last year and has also had conversations with Kevin Walsh and Tommy Breheny, two previous Sligo managers who have brought teams to New York. Manhattan Race Night
Meanwhile a fundraiser Race night in aid of Sligo GAA will take place in a popular Manhattan pub on Saturday night.
An online notice stated : For all you travelling to stateside to watch the Sligo take on New York in the Connacht Championship opener on May 7th join us in O’Flanagan’s bar at 1215 1st Avenue between 65th and 66th street in Manhattan on Saturday May 6th. Come join us and the Sligo NY Gaelic football club for a great night out before the big game!
Race night - Live band from 9pm with special guest from Sligo, Maureen O’Dowd! - Complimentary buffet - No Cover ChargeThe game from Gaelic Park gets underway at 3.15pm (8.15pm Irish time) and will be broadcast live on RTÉ Radio.