High-scoring encounter in store as New York aim to end 20-year drought
David Jennings with the best bets for the opening weekend of the championship
New York v Leitrim
Sunday, 7.15pm, Gaelic Park
This is New York's 20th campaign in the Connacht Championship and they have yet to win a single match. They welcome Leitrim to Gaelic Park in the Big Apple on Sunday night, five years after suffering a 24-point (4-19 to 0-7) hammering at the hands of them in the 2013 championship.
When betting opened on this match, New York were as big as 5-1 with some firms but news of Jamie Clarke's move from Armagh instigated a widespread gamble on the whipping boys of the All-Ireland championship and they are now as short as 5-4. What a difference one player can make.
But this is not just any player, this is the ace attacker who dismantled Kildare almost single-handedly when lining out for Armagh in last year's All-Ireland qualifiers. When on song, Clarke is among the top five forwards playing the game.
Not only do New York welcome Clarke into their attack, but Meath native Dalton McDonagh is also named in their starting 15. He is a goal-poacher with a natural talent for converting opportunities and is sure to cause Leitrim serious problems on the edge of the square.
McDonagh was renowned as one of the most dangerous forwards in the game when plying his trade for Na Fianna in the Meath club championship and his link with Clarke could be the avenue to a first All-Ireland success for New York.
The hosts warmed up for this test by dishing out a 13-point hammering to All-Ireland club champions Corofin and, while you have to take into account that the Galway side were without several key players, it is still a very positive result.
Leitrim lost four of their six games in Division 4 of the league this spring and only scraped past London at this stage 12 months ago so this has all the ingredients of an upset.
However, it is worth noting that Leitrim saw off Sligo in a challenge recently and seem to have integrated some of their under 21 stars into the side of late. They will still take a bit of beating.
New York could finally do it but odds of 5-4 do not appeal so it is worth looking elsewhere for value.
The market that is worth exploiting is the total goals one - get on over 2.5 goals at 6-4 and over 3.5 goals at 7-2. Indeed, it is hard to resist having a nibble on over 4.5 match goals at 8-1 as well.
New York have never kept a clean sheet in the Connacht championship in the last five years, conceding 12 goals in five games. That is an average concession of 2.4 goals per game.
Leitrim were prolific in front of goal during Division 4 of the league too, scoring three goals against Laois and two against Limerick and Wicklow, so they will fancy their chances of unlocking the home side's fragile rearguard unit.
What makes the total goals market so appetising is New York's new-looking attacking unit. With Clarke and McDonagh up front, it is hard to see them failing to find the net, and they should get at least two goals.
This could develop into a goal fest and it is worth cashing in.
Over 2.5 goals
3pts 6-4 Paddy Power
Over 3.5 goals
2pts 7-2 Betway, Coral, Paddy Power
Over 4.5 goals
1pt 8-1 Paddy Power
London v Sligo
Sunday, 3.30pm, Ruislip
Sligo should have enough class to escape from Ruislip unscathed but there could be a few scares along the way and London are fancied to make much of the early running on home soil.
London welcomed Leitrim to Ruislip at this stage in the Connacht championship last year and found themselves two points in front early in the second half.
The concession of three goals proved their undoing as they lost out on a scoreline of 3-10 to 0-16 but they were every bit as good as their opponents for the best part of an hour.
London played all their Division 4 matches on home soil this spring, destroying Wicklow 1-16 to 0-10 but perhaps their most impressive display came in the loss to Division 4 champions Laois - 0-17 to 2-9.
Laois are a better side than Sligo so that form looks strong in the context of this tie. Expect London to put it up to the visitors right up until the final ten minutes.
Sligo's confidence must be low having lost out to Leitrim in a recent challenge match so expect them to take time to find their stride.
You can back London at 9-4 to lead at half-time but better value is the London-Sligo double result at 11-2 with BoyleSports.
London-Sligo double result
1pt 11-2 BoyleSports
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