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London calling as young GAA stars flee home

Top-class facilities and promise of work lure hundreds of emigrating players to UK clubs

AN astonishing rise in emigration of young GAA players has led to one London club signing up nearly two teams of new players from Ireland in less than four months.

Tir Chonaill Gaels offers new recruits help in finding accommodation and work in the UK capital "using our many contacts".

Earlier this week it emerged that Tipperary legend Lar Corbett seriously considered leaving Ireland for Australia when the recession hit and work for electricians dried up.

"It did cross my mind," said Mr Corbett, who has just opened Lar Corbett's Bar in Thurles.

"I was lucky enough in 2004, I travelled to Australia and I really liked it. It's a fantastic country."

In the end, the hurling ace, who recently announced his retirement from inter-county hurling, decided to stay, and in the intervening years helped Tipperary to win the 2010 All-Ireland when he scored three goals.

But it's London and the UK which are still attracting most young GAA players who are out of work at home.

"Since January 3 we have transferred 28 players, and I know there are more than 500 players who have transferred to various clubs around England in recent months," Tir Chonnail Gaels chairman Tom Mohan revealed.

"It's unfortunate that has to be the case but it's a fact of life that lots of young men are looking for work. We will try and find them work here and if they can play football then even better," he said

As the GAA Annual Congress concludes this weekend with incoming president Liam O'Neill pledging to make the emigration issue a priority, one of Kilkenny's best-known clubs has begun a new initiative to try and keep its young hurlers at home.

Dicksboro GAA launched an appeal asking local employers to try and find summer work for players. The club wants to find seasonal work for third-level students at the club, but in the long term it is hoped that working relationships forged now might lead to permanent work when the students graduate.

Dicksboro's development chairman Simon Walton said last week: "Our adult player base profile is relatively young and we have 30 third-level students playing for our adult teams. We are acutely aware of the challenges presenting for local businesses and of the limited availability that may exist for summer employment. Nonetheless, we are committed to doing what we can for our members who are currently proceeding through third-level education."

The Young Islanders senior football team from Valentia Island in Co Kerry has now lost 14 members of its squad to emigration, it was recently reported.

In London, clubs like Tir Chonnail Gaels are attracting new members with the promise of top-class facilities.

The club boasts on its website: "Tir Chonaill Gaels are always keen to recruit new players for London's top football club. We know that moving to London can be quite daunting, but we will make the move much easier for you by helping and advising you on securing accommodation and employment."

Sunday Independent