Sunday 4 December 2016

Gottsche continuing epic journey with Gaels

Michael Verney

Published 21/10/2016 | 02:30

Mark Gottsche is making a good fist of his dual role as London GAA board secretary/treasurer and as a player with Tír Chonaill Gaels. Photo: Sportsfile
Mark Gottsche is making a good fist of his dual role as London GAA board secretary/treasurer and as a player with Tír Chonaill Gaels. Photo: Sportsfile

There are two questions on everyone's lips when they first see Mark Gottsche in action - 'Where does his name come from?' and 'how did he manage to end up playing football?'

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Gottsche was born in Kellinghusen, an hour north of Hamburg, to a German father and an Irish mother, who moved back to Galway when he was five after they initially met when his grandparents upped sticks to the west in the 1970s.

His dad's lecturing position at GMIT brought them back to these shores in 1993 and not long after enrolling in primary school that September, Mark became infatuated with Gaelic football despite an inauspicious start.

"All I remember about that first day was it was lashing and I didn't enjoy it all that much," he says, "but we were lucky in Oranmore because Gerry Fahy was coming to the national schools.

"For as long as I can remember Gerry was there and he instilled a passion in a lot of us. I remember going down to the club every Saturday morning, we used to train from half ten until half 12 and I just loved it."

Underage success opened the door for him to represent Galway at minor, U-21 and senior level, although his first taste of senior championship would not come until he crossed the English Channel in 2010.

Despite receiving his accountancy degree, he opted to complete a sports management Masters in Jordanstown, where he played Sigerson Cup. And with the 2012 Olympics on the horizon, London was calling him.

A role with betting giants William Hill helped to tide him over for a few months but despite the plethora of sporting organisations in England's capital, Gottsche ended up employed by London GAA.

He started coaching with clubs, then followed in Fahy's inspirational footsteps by visiting primary schools spreading the football gospel before becoming Games Development and Logistics manager and now full-time secretary/treasurer.

Mixing that with playing for London, with whom he won GAA Player of the Month in May 2013 after London's shock Connacht SFC win against Sligo, can be tricky but he clearly draws a line between work and play.

Neutral

"I try and leave my own playing career to one side, I try to stay as neutral as I can for issues relating to the county board. I'm often dealing with team managers throughout the year and that can be difficult enough," he says.

"But we sort of say at the beginning of the conversation that if we're talking about me as county secretary or an inter-county player, we try not to overlap the two. Meetings clash with trainings some evenings but work comes first, playing football is secondary."

It may be secondary but he's making a pretty good fist of it and despite suffering from patellar tendinopathy, overuse of the knee joint, in both legs he won't be found wanting should Tír Chonaill Gaels require his services in Sunday's county final.

He may have only played ten minutes with his club this year - during their semi-final win over Parnells - since London's Qualifier exit to Offaly, but with St Kiernans standing between them and three-in-a-row, and their 17th title since 1990, he'll be ready for action.

"I saw a surgeon who said an operation would take too long to recover from if I wanted to play for another year or two so I've been seeing a physician in Bond Street but if I'm needed, I'm available," he enthuses.

"It's hard watching on and not being as involved as other years but a county final is where you want to be, it's the pinnacle of the club scene so hopefully we'll do the business on Sunday."

With talented homegrown players who have come up through their underage system like captain Liam Gavaghan and Philip Butler, the Gaels are favourites to progress and Gottsche will be hoping for a double celebration.

Next week it'll be six years since he came to London, and while he's already trying to organise venues for county teams to go back training next month, overseeing Ruislip's redevelopment and organising flights for next year's league, Ireland's lure doesn't go away.

"I'd like to move home but jobs in sport aren't as regular as other jobs apart from rugby, soccer is semi-professional there. I'm open to staying in London for another while and I'll see the development through but I wouldn't rule out staying or going."

Irish Independent

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