Gaelic Football

Saturday 26 July 2014

Dual star with a difference has dream for Exiles

Donnchadh Boyle

Published 25/03/2014|02:30

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London footballer Mark Gottsche
London footballer Mark Gottsche
London's Mark Gottsche playing in 2012
London's Mark Gottsche playing in 2012

The busiest man in the GAA? London's Mark Gottsche is unique in that he combines playing and administration roles at county level.

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The Galway native acts as both London GAA's secretary and treasurer, roles he fits in around the demands of being an inter-county footballer with the Exiles.

And he'll have even more on his plate for the next 12 months as London have unveiled an ambitious €5m revamp of their Ruislip ground to bring it in line with county facilities here.

The new development will included a 3,900-capacity stand, administration offices, medical facilities, a floodlit training area as well as terracing on one side of the ground.

London expect to have the work completed before their Connacht championship game in 2015, with €1.4m of funding coming from the GAA and another €600,000 from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

London will raise €500,000, with the remaining monies to be loaned to the Exiles' county board by Croke Park.

Gottsche has no concerns that the revamp could see them lose the atmosphere that has made Ruislip a difficult place for visiting teams to come to in the past.

"We're not going to lose that because it is a massive day out for the Gaels in London and in Britain, so you're still going to have the fairly intimidating atmosphere of Ruislip," he said.

"Okay, the grass bank is going to be gone and be replaced with a stand but there's still going to be plenty of people milling around and it will still be the same place atmosphere-wise."

It means Gottsche will have his hands full both on the field and off as the county look to build on last year's historic appearance in the Connacht final. But he insists there's no issue keeping the roles separate.

"I'm one of the lucky people who gets to have their hobby as their profession," he said.

"It's great. John Molloy, who was the previous secretary, is assistant secretary now and he is a great help, and the former treasurer is a phone call away too. There's plenty of support.

"As far as being a player and secretary you just have to draw the line somewhere and not be mixing up conversations about football and work.

"We sat down at the start of the year and we discussed it. We have an understanding about seeing how it will go for a year.

"If I have a problem, it might make things more difficult but it is going well at the moment."

After last year's run to the Connacht decider that also saw the Exiles play a championship match in Croke Park against Cavan, London are tipped to push Galway hard when the Tribesmen come to visit this summer.

And Gottsche says his side must follow up on the progress they made last season.

"The year after we brought Mayo to extra-time four years ago, we had Leitrim at home and the expectation was that we'd beat them but we lost – so it's about how you manage those expectations.

"Other years, other counties have had great runs in the championship, getting to semi-finals and finals and the following the season they haven't performed.

"So obviously we want to avoid that sort of second-season syndrome. Galway is going to be a hard game but you never know."

TURNOVER

There has been less turnover in personnel than usual with Caolan Doyle and Ciaran McCallion two of the better known absentees for 2014.

Former Down panellist Marcus Miskelly has joined up, as has Tyrone's Cathal McCarron, who was nominated for an All Star last year.

Gottsche has been impressed with how McCarron has made the transition from training at the palatial Garvaghey complex in Tyrone to the unique demands of lining out for London.

"There's no ego about him. He's down to earth, he doesn't expect things to be a certain way. The facilities we have, they are not like Garvaghey but you have to get on with it," said Gottsche.

"If you want to play county football in London that's what you have to put up with. It kind of bonds the team because we know we are all in it together. And we are probably a little bit stronger overall as a squad I would say."

Irish Independent

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