Twelve months ago Ross Wherity was part of the Donegal panel preparing for their start of their Ulster and All-Ireland defence.
The St Eunan’s forward had initially made his inter-county debut in 2010 but is best remembered for palming home Donegal’s second goal from Paddy McBrearty’s centre in last year’s 2-10 to 0-10 Ulster championship quarter-final win over Tyrone at a heaving MacCumhaill Park.
The 25-year-old emigrated to the United States not long after Donegal’s defence collapsed when they were walloped by Mayo in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
Wherity and his new teammates, those of New York, were recently taken to West Point Academy with an eye on their Connacht championship opener that takes place against James Horgan’s team this Sunday, throw-in 7:30pm Irish time.
“It’s the military cadet training school for the army and we got a tour of their sporting facility,” Wherity said from New York this week.
“It was pretty interesting. We looked over a couple of videos then to try and come up with a plan for Mayo.”
Wherity, who won an Ulster Minor Championship in 2006, admits it could be “a matter of plugging the holes” against the side who have lost in each of the last two All-Ireland finals.
On their last visit to the Bronx in 2009, Mayo triumphed 2-19 to 0-10 and the closest the exiles came to an upset of late was when Galway headed for JFK relieved to have triumphed 2-13 to 0-12 in 2010.
Seamus Sweeney from Kildarragh was manager for the second of those encounters as well as the 2011 3-21 to 1-11 reversal against Roscommon. The St Michael’s clubman was succeeded by Ardara native Connie Molloy, who saw his team lose to Sligo heavily, 3-21 to 0-6, and then last year against Leitrim, 4-18 to 0-8.
Ian Galvin from Kerry is the current manager and wing-forward Wherity plays alongside captain Brendan Quigley from Laois and Down duo Keith Quinn and Ger McCartan.
Kerry’s Gary O’Driscoll, who won a New York senior medal under Galvin last year, is the new vice-captain.
“Someone pointed out to that New York have traditionally saved their best performances for Galway and Mayo,” Wherity said. “Looking at New York’s results over the last three years you might’ve thought they’d have a chance against Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon.
“But they lost heavily so that’s puts the match against Mayo into perspective.
“Things are a lot better organised by all accounts and so the quality of player is improving.
“We started training for this match in January and it’s not too far removed as to what you would be doing at home. There’s been a good buzz.”
Wherity, who was named as man of the match for the Kerry New York side in their 2-14 to 0-11 win over Cavan in the club championship two weeks’ ago, lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, along with his girlfriend Laura Elliott and friend Ronan McLaughlin, both of whom are from Letterkenny.
“I’m loving it here. It’s a cool part of the world,” Wherity, a graduate of Law and Economics from DCU, said of New York, where he works as an underwriter for Fora Financial in Midtown Manhatten.
“The GAA here have been good and help lads get jobs. There’s a few involved in the construction side of thing and bar work,” he said. “There was a couple of lads on the team working in finance and they helped me get a job with Barclay’s initially before I moved onto my present job.”
On Tuesday and Thursday evenings, he travels north to training, disembarking at the last stop on the D train - Woodlawn. It was only in the last month or so the artificial pitch at Gaelic Park has thawed. Now, there’s a feeling of summer and championship.
“I’m a little removed from it living down here in Brooklyn but living up in Woodlawn there’s posters and people are taking about the match against Mayo,” Wherity added.
“We’ve had snow and ice on the pitch until about four weeks ago. We’d to scrape it all off and one or two of the lads slipped into it and would’ve needed stitches. It’s just a case of looking forward to the summer as it’s been a long winter.
“It’s a big occasion for the Irish people who live out here. They are expecting maybe 5,000 or 6,000 to the match. There should be a party atmosphere.”