Exiles won't get carried away by hype – Gottsche
MARK Gottsche has come a long way in every sense.
The German-born, Galway-raised London midfielder is preparing for the Exiles' Connacht semi-final away to Leitrim on June 23, but in the meantime, he's working on the longer-term future of London GAA.
Like the rest of Paul Coggins' squad, work is the primary reason Gottsche landed in London. He found employment in Ireland limited after he completed a masters in sports management in Jordanstown but he never expected that a move to London would result in a job with the GAA – he provides coaching to the next generation of players.
"We have about 14 or 15 underage clubs in London and every club has three defined feeder schools," said Gottsche, who was named the Opel GAA/GPA player of the month for May.
"We had a schools tournament there and we had three or four hundred kids down at it a couple of weeks ago, so there are massive numbers playing."
London provided what has been a rare shock in this summer's championship when seeing off Sligo in Ruislip but, on closer inspection, perhaps it should have been expected. The Exiles brought Mayo to extra-time in 2011 before beating a depleted Fermanagh in the back door later that year. Twelve months ago, they came within a point of Leitrim.
"London winning a Connacht championship game for the first time in 33 years, it was huge," said Gottsche. "We got the feet back down fairly quick, though. We learnt a lot from the hype of beating Fermanagh two years ago.
"So Paul got the squad back together on the Tuesday night. We had a meeting, talked about what we're going to do for the next couple of weeks and we looked at areas of our game that we can improve on for the next day as well."
London are a uniquely difficult situation. A GAA rule that prevented them from travelling back to Ireland meant challenge games in the run-up to the championship were impossible, while the 'Seanie Johnston rule' forces any new arrivals to feature in the club championship before they can line out with the Exiles.
But London have demonstrated their resourcefulness. They might not have the same budget but an Irish groundskeeper in the famous Harrow school – of whom Winston Churchill is an alumnus – helped the squad get access to the school's gym.
Gottsche was the star of the win over Sligo, displaying the talent that persuaded former Galway manager Liam Sammon to hand him his NFL debut at 19.
"Looking back I was probably too young at the time. Maybe I was a bit naive. I was 19, maybe not prepared for the demands of inter-county football. It just didn't work out," said Gottsche.
His development has been rapid in recent years, as demonstrated by his selection for Connacht in the Inter-provincial series, but nothing would satisfy him more than a place in the Connacht final.
"This is going to be the fourth time in two years we have played Leitrim but they have beaten us all three times in close games, so they have a bit of an Indian sign over us at the minute. Hopefully we can change that," he said.