Carr going extra mile in Londoners' quest for history
PADDY Carr is the epitome of the old adage that if you want a job done quickly, give it to a busy man.
As soon as he wraps up the day job running the Leaving Cert Applied courses at St Oliver's CC, the Drogheda schoolteacher drives to Dublin airport most Fridays to catch a flight to Heathrow and then heads straight to Tir Chonaill Gaels GAA club in Ealing.
"Living in Navan and working in Drogheda means I can be at the airport not long after five and when I get to London I can be at the pitch for training by a quarter to eight," Carr explains of his unusual cross-channel managerial commute.
Carr (pictured below), who once played for Donegal, competed in All-Ireland club finals for Walterstown of Meath and managed Louth in his action-packed career before famously leading Kilmacud Crokes to an All-Ireland title in 2009.
And since finishing a four-year managerial stint with Kilmacud in late 2011, he has concentrated his considerable energies on managing the exiles.
Tomorrow his side will face off against Munster kingpins Dr Crokes in the All-Ireland club SFC quarter-final. But his involvement with the north-west London club dates back a long way.
He won a London championship with Tir Chonaill Gaels (TCG) in 1983, has been their director of football for the past six years and how the club embraced him in his student days is central to his commitment.
Back in the 1980s, when Carr had a summer job driving lorries in London, it was TCG he played for.
That sparked a lifelong relationship that he happily describes as "a labour of love" and one that he believes, in the current recession, is more important than ever for Ireland's latest tsunami of young emigrants.
"I feel very strongly about the brilliant calibre of young people leaving Ireland at the moment," he says.
"The difference between them and my generation is their confidence, which is based on the quality of their education.
"But they still want and need to hold on to many of the things that make them uniquely Irish and the GAA is one of those things."
Whenever Carr can't get over, he has able deputies in team trainer Kevin Downes (Cavan) and selectors such as Donegal men Maurice Carr, JP O'Donnell and Derry's Mickey Kelly.
Tir Chonaill Gaels, winners of a record 14 titles, are regarded as the current powerhouses of London football and 10 years ago they took over the lease on what was Ealing Rugby Club in Greenford, essentially buying a ground complete with pitches and dressing-rooms.
"It was extremely ambitious but there are tremendous people, like Tom Mohan, working behind the scenes who believe that whatever else our young people leave behind when they arrive in London, it won't be the opportunity to play Gaelic football at the highest level," Carr says.
"I genuinely don't think people really appreciate the value and network to the Irish abroad that the GAA provides. There is a huge pastoral element to the club."
Current GAA president Liam O'Neill travelled over in 2007 to launch TCG's five-year plan to coincide with this year's 50th anniversary and they are fiercely proud that their team that reached this year's London junior final was entirely British-born.
Like many exile clubs, they have also benefited from the latest wave of emigration – half of tomorrow's starters are players who have arrived in the past two years.
Their county goalkeeper Brian McBrearty will be playing in his fifth All-Ireland quarter-final and most of their starters have inter-county experience either at minor, U-21 or senior level, with Mark Gottsche (Galway), Peter Sherry (Fermanagh), Kevin McMenamin (Donegal), Eamonn McConville (Down) and Mark McConville (Armagh) among the best known.
In 1990, Tir Chonaill Gaels famously took Lavey of Derry to a replay and still argue they were unlucky that day. In 2005, they gave Salthill-Knocknacarra a real fright, losing by four points.
"That game hung in the balance, they had two sent off but we missed two or three 21-yard frees, and they went on to beat Kilmacud and won the All-Ireland," Carr recalls.
"We know we're up against a cliff face alright in Dr Crokes," he acknowledges. "But this is a great opportunity to see where we are in our development and hopefully to also reflect the great strides that the club has made."