NEW YORK v MAYO Gaelic Park, New York, 7.30 Referee M Collins (Cork) And so, it starts, the championship, literally as well as . guratively thousands of miles from Croke Park. We have to say, we loved when this one came through on the fixtures list from the GAA of. ce. "New York v Mayo, New York, " as if it were Donegal v Leitrim, Ballybofey, or Clare v Carlow, Ennis. New York's a pretty big place and Gaelic Park isn't exactly as unavoidable there as, say, Cusack Park in Mullingar.

Thankfully for Mayo, it's not as if John Maughan will have to stop and ask a few unsuspecting locals in the Bronx would they happen by any chance to know where Gaelic Park is. Maughan has some local knowledge himself, having had the odd Big Apple weekend during his playing days. Mayo will show up. What kind of Mayo is another question.

It's harder to know which was the bigger aberration this spring: Wexford's 19-point hammering of Galway or Mayo's 10-point win over Dublin; Mayo have been pitiful since they claimed that scalp.

They've apparently trained diligently for this game, having been drilled in the importance of taking water in 80-degree heat and how best to adjust their body clocks to the different time zone. Just how versed they are in scoring is another matter.

New York have trained hard for this, their panel of 38 having trained three nights a week for the past three months. They'll hit hard too, as Mayo should know from their FBD league game early this year. They've got some decent players, such as Kerry's Bingo O'Driscoll and Galway's Jason Killeen, he the . rst of the many successors to the number six since John Divilly went out of favour. Last year Leitrim were lucky to get out of the Bronx with a twopoint win. The return of David Brady and David Heaney and New York's lack of match practice should secure a more comfortable passage for Mayo though.

Verdict Mayo by eight points MAYO P Burke; D Geraghty, P Kelly, G Ruane;

F Costello, D Sweeney, J Nallon; D Heaney, D Brady; J Gill, A Dillon, A Moran; C Mortimer, B Maloney, M McNicholas NEW YORK (panel) E Doherty; E Byrne, K Newell, P O'Connor, P Murphy, D Callaghan, J Shaw, D Costello, P Harrington, J Walsh, M Slowey, K O'Connor, J Kilkeen, K Lilly, G O'Dowd, B O'Driscoll, S Russell, M Dobbins, S McInerney, M Keaveney, D Sullivan, B Newman, E Bradley LEINSTER SHC PRELIMINARY ROUND CARLOW v LAOIS Dr Cullen Park, 3.30 Referee E Morris (Dublin) When these sides met last summer, Laois won by treble scores. Expect a similar story today. Carlow have had the amazing scenario of seeing both their senior county managers walk out in midseason, and when Michael Walsh quit, the county board were in favour of quitting from this Leinster championship.

They weren't allowed to, and new manager Eoin Garvey is talking with a lot of bravado, but even though their under21s rattled Laois last week, the seniors won't approach that today. What else can you conclude when those seniors, bar four players, are the under-21s?

Paudie Butler has been quietly doing one of the best coaching jobs in the country this past two years. In fact, right now Laois are probably the second best team in Leinster. If they see off Meath two weeks from now, then they'll have the chance to humble Offaly for the second time in a month.

Verdict Laois LAOIS K Galvin; Phil Cuddy, Pat Cuddy, M McEvoy; J Fitzpatrick, Paul Cuddy, R Conroy; D Rooney, J Walsh; C Coonan, J Young, E Meagher; T Fitzgerald, L Tynan, D Culliton CARLOW F Foley; W Hickey, A Corcoran, M Keogh; K Nolan, E Coady, A Gaule; S Kavanagh, P Coady; P Keogh, D Murphy, R Minchin; B Murphy, C English, S Smithers WESTMEATH v WICKLOW Cusack Park, Mullingar, 3.30 Referee F Smith (Meath) Don't know about you but if there was an award going for the most under-rated coach in inter-county hurling this past 20 years, Tom Ryan would be our nomination. The manager with the best winning record in the Munster championship in that time, bar the one-year Donal O'Grady? Ryan. The coach of the last two teams to win a Munster title beating three of Munster's big five en route? Ryan, with Limerick, in 1994 and '96. And the man who has guided Westmeath to next week's Division Two . nal without losing a game? Yep, Mr Ryan. Justin McCarthy's not the only missionary with a team in a league final next weekend. This game is going to end only one way. While Ryan was right this past week to point out Westmeath were lucky to avoid defeat in some of their earlier games, there was nothing fortunate about their eight-goal demolition of Kerry last weekend.

Verdict Westmeath WESTMEATHM Briory; D Curley, B Murtagh, P Greville; D Gallagher, C Murtagh, D McCormack; P Williams, O Devine; R Whelan, V Bateman, A Mitchell; D Carty, J Shaw, B Kennedy WICKLOW T Finn; MJ O'Neill, G Keogh, J Bermingham; AN Other, M O'Neill, T McGrath;

C O'Toole, G Murray; J Murphy, G Doran, C Kavanagh; A Tiernan, J O'Neill, D Moran ALL IRELAND VOCATIONAL SCHOOLS SH 'A' FINAL ST BRIGID'S, LOUGHREA v ST BROGAN'S, BANDON Cashel, 3.30 Bandon are on the verge of an exceptional double, having claimed the football title in some style three weeks ago, but Loughrea should just about shade this.

Verdict St Brigid's TOMORROW ALL IRELAND COLLEGES SH 'A' FINAL ST RAPHAEL'S, LOUGHREA v ST KIERAN'S, KILKENNY Parnell Park. 2.00 Referee J McDonnell (Tipperary) Live, TG4, 1.45 Kieran's dismissed St Flannan's easier than we thought last month. Loughrea will make sure there'll be nothing easy about today but another title seems imminent for the Kilkenny academy.

Verdict St Kieran's ALL IRELAND COLLEGES SF 'A' FINAL ST PATRICK'S, NAVAN v ST PATRICK'S DUNGANNON Parnell Park, 3.40 Referee P McEnaney (Monaghan) Live, TG4 Colm O'Rourke's team have learned a lot from Tyrone football, judging by their incredible work rate on and off the ball, but they're likely to be taught some more tomorrow.

Though Navan themselves are exceptionally strong down the middle, this is considered an even better Dungannon team to the Brian McGuiganinspired class of '97; two current Tyrone minors can't even make the bench.

Verdict Dungannon