Lorcan Mulvey: 'Outside of the group, we know that nobody really cares too much about us'
The Saturday Interview
Lorcan Mulvey arrived back at his place in Brixton last week to find post from Ireland on the floor. Who'd be sending mail from home he wondered, then tore open the envelope and opened the card. Written inside was a message of support from his home club of Butlersbridge in Cavan.
"Congratulations. Well done. Best of luck."
They were all nice words to read, but the gesture was an even greater compliment because it was recognition, from those close to him, of the hard work he and his team-mates have put in this season.
Lots of words have been written about London this summer, but sometimes that simple point gets buried under manufactured messages of support from Boris Johnson, invitations to the queen to attend games and the cliches attached to the GAA in London now running on loop.
It's all good fun, but it deflects from the greater story of performance.
The Exiles might be 33/1 outsiders to beat Mayo in the Connacht final tomorrow, but they beat Sligo and then Leitrim after a replay, so they are there on merit.
It's Tuesday and Mulvey is sitting in a coffee shop in Moorgate, central London, sipping from a bottle of water.
"I know there is something special going on," he says. "Well, special is a strong word, but just reward is more what I'd be thinking.
"We feel we deserve this, not that something magical is happening."
The Cavan native looks out the window at the cranes which speckle the skyline and before he deals with Mayo, he talks about his job as a site manager at the back of the nearby Tube station. It's the reason he is living here.
There is a stereotype about the Irish in London and from a distance the big full-forward fits the bill: "Yeah," he laughs, "banging away with the hammer, heading off to training then going and drinking 10 pints.
"Nah, I think that day and age is gone, especially when you go training with Fulham Irish and London, you don't see too many dirty pairs of jeans coming in, it's all Toms and Chinos."
So, this is team that doesn't sit comfortably beside a branding of emigration that swings between party zone and longing for home.
Because when you look down through the match-day programme and you'll see a group of people defined by education and career-choice as much as football.
As players they are constantly being encouraged by manager Paul Coggins to be the best they can be and this mantra isn't left on the pitch.
If there's a temptation to try and package this London story a certain way then the Skype call made by 'The Sunday Game' following victory over Sligo, stands out. Mulvey laughs about the "gimmick" and, of course, there was the suggestion on the same show that London should holiday in Ireland the week before the replay with Leitrim.
Sure none of them had professional commitments to think about!
"Didn't go down too well," says the 28-year-old. "But then people say things off the cuff and they probably don't mean anything by it."
Still it's frustrating more than upsetting because it undermines their application, professional as well as sporting.
Still, there have been bigger issues.
Rewind to the start of the year, and the London County Board were forced to reschedule the start of the club championships for February in order to make players eligible for county participation under the so-called Seanie Johnston rule. This also happened the previous April when a scrambled round of games was run-off for the same reason.
Then, in May this year, the Exiles were not permitted to return to Ireland for a series of challenge matches under the ruling which forbids county teams to travel 'abroad' for training holidays in the two weeks before championship.
"There have been a lot of barriers in front of us the last couple of years," he says. "It never runs smooth. They make rules in Croke Park and it doesn't help London football, but you can understand why they make the decisions, it's the bigger picture they're looking at".
He describes all this as "pieces in the jigsaw" rather than motivation for success, because just committing to play for London is the bigger cause.
"Sickening at times," he says. "And go up that street there," he nods "and no one would have a clue what you are on about."
Until a couple of weeks ago, that anonymity was something which underscored the London team, despite the fact that nearly 300,000 Irish-born people inhabit the city.
"Outside of the group we know that nobody really cares too much about us," he says.
"The back-room team that are behind us, our friends and family and to a certain extent, the County Board. That's who you are doing it for."
Yet lately, success has broadened their appeal. "It's been a bit of an education for the English lads on the site alright. They'd be googling the reports, asking me how we did? Some of them even talking about coming to Castlebar for the final and making a weekend out of it."
These are the bits that make the whole story surreal because less than three years ago, Mulvey was in his seventh season with the Cavan squad and dreaming about participating in a provincial final.
He couldn't have imagined he'd realise this ambition in the green of his adopted county, when back in the day he'd be sitting at home, reading the sports pages with only a sideways glance at the London results.
Fast forward 12 months and he's turning in a stellar performance en route to winning a county senior championship with Fulham Irish – his first at that level, beside a team made up of new arrivals living in the surrounding post codes of Clapham, Wandsworth and Putney.
He stood out in the final. It reinvigorated his career and he fell quickly into the London set-up where bigger days lay in wait.
He talks about shaking hands with his uncle from Leitrim following London's replayed victory, both of them standing in Dr Hyde Park and Mulvey thinking of all the days he stood on the terraces in Carrick-on-Shannon supporting the team of his father. Like in '94 when Leitrim won Connacht.
"I didn't know what to say to him," he says. "And my uncle just smiled. Because it was a big enough thing for me growing up going to games with my father. In the same way that it will be a big deal for the Mayo lads when they line out against their home county on Sunday."
Mulvey, who has scored a cumulative 2-8 in Connacht to date, describes the challenge he and his team-mates face in Mayo as "awesome," but believes London can be competitive.
"The poor old bookies aren't giving us much chance, but it's a brave man that gives us an 18-point head-start," he says. "I think we're a good balanced team and a big strong team. Hopefully, we can use this."
But the nucleus of this squad and management has been together since that extra-time epic against Mayo in 2011. He was a spectator that day and saw something he wanted to be a part of.
"I've been involved in a lot of teams and this is probably as good as I've been on," he says, readying himself to return to work. "It's been said that we'll be connected forever by what has happened this summer, but I'm not focusing on that really..." he reveals.
For Mulvey, it's better just to focus on delivering the kind of performance that brings fan mail through the door of his house in Brixton.
THE ALTERNATIVE INTERVIEW
Who do you follow on Twitter?
I'm not on Twitter.
What was the last sports event you paid into?
An American football game in Wembley involving the New England Patriots a few years ago. I saw a game in Boston once and decided to head down with Declan Traynor (London goalkeeper) for a bit of a day out.
If you could attend any sports event in the world, what would it be?
The World Cup final. I'm a Man United fan and the international appeal of the game and that competition, must make for a great atmosphere, occasion, everything.
Favourite sports star outside the GAA?
It would have to be Paul O'Connell. He's a man-mountain, but such a down-to-earth guy. He never forgets where he is from and has his priorities right.
I haven't played golf for a long time. No time.
Taste in music?
I'd listen to anything, but I'm not the type of person that uses music as motivation before matches.
Taste in books?
I read newspapers. I don't have the time to read books either.
If you could invite three people to dinner, who would they be?
I think Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan would be great fun together and sure I may as well put Halle Berry in the middle to help the scenery.