independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

It's boom time for rising Exiles

Gottsche insists historic Sligo scalp a sign of things to come as recession helps London's stock to soar

Recession helps London's stock to soar
Recession helps London's stock to soar

IT was a bank holiday in London yesterday, so their dam-busting Gaelic footballers got some welcome rest after the hysteria that followed their first Connacht SFC victory in 36 years.

"We mostly just stayed around the grounds in Ruislip afterwards," explained Mark Gottsche, their man-of-the-match midfielder in the 1-12 to 0-14 win over Sligo, of the big post-match celebrations in London GAA's HQ.

The Galway man epitomises how the downturn in the home economy has boosted the Exiles' football fortunes.

Gottsche, whose family moved to Oranmore from his father Jurgen's native Germany when he was just five, has played football for Galway at every level from minor upwards.

His one senior appearance was in a National League game, against Kildare, in 2008 during Liam Sammon's first year in charge.

But he played Sigerson Cup for NUI Galway for four years while obtaining a commerce degree and also for UUJ in Ulster, where he did a master's in sports management. When he went to London in mid-2011 he was prepared to take any employment available and initially worked with William Hill bookies.

But with his qualifications he was delighted to then get a job as a development officer for the London GAA board and now works full-time for them as their games development and logistics manager.

In his first summer Gottsche was part of the London team that gave Mayo a real fright by taking them to extra-time.

And when they ran Leitrim to a point last summer, it was clear that the Exiles were benefiting from a fresh injection of talent thanks to a new generation of emigrants.

Lorcan Mulvey, who scored a vital goal last Sunday, won an Ulster U-21 medal with Cavan and had already played for their seniors before he arrived last year. Seamus Hannon was wing-back for Longford in 2010 when they famously knocked Mayo out of the qualifiers in Pearse Park.

Padraig McGoldrick, forced to play against some old friends last weekend, won an All-Ireland junior title with Sligo. Gottsche's midfield partner Caolan Doyle and Mayobridge's Cathal Magee only joined this year but have been two useful additions.

London chairman Noel O'Sullivan has attributed their first victory in Connacht since 1977 to the home recession and the fact that players are no longer using London as a stopgap en route to Australia or south-east Asia.

There is also a lot of work being done at grassroots level to produce home-grown players like Philip Butler and Gavin McEvoy. "We've now got development squads at U-14, U-16 and U-18 and we're bringing the U-16s and U-18s home later this summer for tournaments," Gottsche explained.

Keeping the bulk of their 2011 squad together has undoubtedly helped. "The Mayo game two years ago was a big catalyst," Gottsche stressed.

"We felt we didn't perform against Leitrim last year but knew if we played as well as we had against Mayo that we could beat Sligo."

Now only Leitrim stand between them and a historic Connacht final. Can the Exiles produce more heroics?

"There's no reason why not," Gottsche said. "We've played them three times in the last two years and there's never much between us."

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