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Monday 19 March 2018

Towers of London prove life in exile is no bar to football success

Breda Heffernan

EVEN in the current economic gloom, every cloud has a silver lining.

While numerous GAA clubs at home are blaming the recession on losing quality players, those same players are not always lost to the GAA.

All of the starting 15 who togged out for the London 'county' team in their impressive championship win over Fermanagh are emigrants who left home in recent years in search of work.

The victory was the exiles' first in the All-Ireland football championship qualifiers since 1977. Of course, things weren't great at home in 1977 either.

Two of the newest members of the team are friends Michael Moloney and Shane Doolan who played together for Dr Crokes in Killarney.

They were forced to leave Ireland last February after they were unable to find jobs in the struggling construction sector.

Michael (23), an engineer, and Shane (24), a carpenter, are now both working for the same construction company and share a house in north London.

"I came out of college a year-and-a-half ago and I couldn't find any positions in engineering, so I decided it was time to go," Michael told the Irish Independent.

"I studied at the University of Limerick and lots of people in my class are in Australia. I found work in London so I was lucky enough in that I'm not too far from home."

The pair didn't have to wait long to find a new team in their adopted city.

"The London manager contacted us straight away when he found out we were coming over. After six weeks we were in the team. They have made us very welcome," said Shane.

And while he admitted he would love to go back home to play for his old team, he didn't see that happening any time soon.

"I'd say I'll be here for a year or so. I can't see things picking up back home for a while," he said.

Back in Killarney, John Keogh, public relations officer for Dr Crokes, said the club had been disappointed to see Shane and Michael go, but understood that they had to find work.

"We would have them back with open arms in the morning. They were instrumental in our winning the championship in Kerry last year," he said.

London captain Sean McVeigh (26), a teacher and former county player for Antrim, left Ballymena in 2008 to study for his teaching qualification, after being unemployed for six months.

"I'd go back tomorrow if I had the opportunity. I never thought I'd have to leave home and my club. The majority of people are over here because they have to get a job," he said.

Manager Paul Coggins, who left Roscommon for the UK capital in 1988, said the team had enhanced the reputation of London GAA.

"We just don't want to be known as a bunch of lads kicking a ball in London. We want to get respect; we give it to everyone else," he said.

Irish Independent

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