Leitrim captain Donal Wrynn pictured with his Fenagh St. Caillin's clubmate Ryan O'Rourke at Leitrim training ahead of next Sunday's Connacht SFC clash with New York. Photo by Declan Gaffney
Not many would describe a Championship clash in Gaelic Park as a “business trip” but when Leitrim captain Donal Wrynn uses that term, you immediately understand what he is getting at.
With hundreds of Leitrim fans crossing the Atlantic for the fourth Connacht Championship meeting between the counties next Sunday (7.15 pm throw-in Irish time, 2.15 local time), it would be easy to get lost in the excitement of the entire occasion.
But for Donal and his Leitrim team-mates, next Sunday's game isn't about a trip to an exotic new venue but rather getting a job done - “It is exciting alright but there is a bit of a tension about it. A lot of people are going out there looking for an enjoyable holiday and break but we see us going out as business for us.
“We’re looking forward to it as a championship game but at the same time, maybe not looking forward to it in the same manner that a lot of people going to the game are.”
And the Leitrim captain, in his second year in the role, believes there is good reason for caution - “New York have obviously got a bit more competitive over the last few years and the perception, the way it is, is that they’ll be targeting Leitrim as an opportunity to finally get a first win.
“We’re well aware of that, it is something we are very cautious about and we’re obviously very focussed for the game and our preparations have gone well so far. I think Emlyn and Paddy are the only two survivors from the last game and we’re hoping for the same result again of course.
“But at the same time, we’re going to have to be cautious, we can’t got out there expecting that they are going to be a pushover. We’ve seen how competitive they can be, Roscommon were a Division One team going out two years ago and the game was won in the last minute.”
All the talk in the build-up to the game is of who New York will have in their ranks with Jamie Clarke the headline name. But Donal prefers to talk about three “new” faces in the Leitrim set-up with the return of Emlyn Mulligan, Ronan Kennedy and Paddy Maguire.
“They’re going to have who they are going to have, we can’t control that. It is just a matter of us controlling the controllables and as they say, its business. I wasn’t in New York the last time and there has been a lot of stuff said to me and I’d be ‘are you serious’ so it is a boost to have Ronan, Paddy and Emlyn back just for those little bits of experience they are adding.
“Paddy is as good a back as we’ve had and Ronan, the two of them bring great experience to the squad, even if it is just a word here and there. Ronan,he is a very smart fellow and very vocal and straight away when he came back, he was in there and talking.
“You know the way that when some people come back, they can hang back a bit, be a bit tentative and say I’m not going to be pushing things out, I’m only back in the door.
“But Ronan, straight away, he was back in there rolling his sleeves up and getting on to the younger guys, giving them little tips and bits of guidance, making them aware of stuff, especially with New York.”
And playing alongside Emlyn Mulligan obviously means a lot to a young Leitrim squad - “It is a massive boost to have the experience of Emlyn, he is an inspirational character around the team.
“A lot of the younger lads on the team are probably ten years younger than Emlyn and would have grown up watching Emlyn on Leitrim teams and wanting to be Emlyn. For Emlyn to be playing alongside them is a huge boost.”
Preparations for New York have been comprehensive so much so that Donal is confident Leitrim’s young squad can handle the whole razzmatazz of New York and the hype and excitement of hundreds of Leitrim fans descending on Gaelic Park.
“It probably will add slightly to the pressure but at the end of the day, we are going to be fully focussed on the task in hand. We have spoken about that, there are going to be a lot of familiar faces there but we have a mental image of that at this stage.
“We have prepared for that and we’ve taken that into consideration in our mental preparation. It is going to be a factor but I don’t think it is going to affect game day performance.”
And confidence is obviously strong in the Leitrim camp if Donal is anything to go by - “Confidence within the squad is good and we can’t control what New York are going to do on the day so I suppose that’s all we can do.
“You always have to back yourself. New York have obviously improved the last couple of years but I think we’re on upward curve. We blooded a lot of lads last year and this year, they’ve become a little bit more comfortable and we’re starting to get a few decent performances together as a squad.”