Tuesday 20 February 2018

London pride: bleary-eyed exiles get Boris talking GAA

Members of the winning London team and their backroom staff arrive in Luton Airport following their win over Leitrim
Members of the winning London team and their backroom staff arrive in Luton Airport following their win over Leitrim
London Mayor Boris Johnson

Graham Clifford

BLEARY-EYED and a little worse for wear, London's heroic Gaelic footballers returned to the UK capital.

On Sunday at Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon the Exiles held off a second-half fight-back from Leitrim to book their place in the Connacht SFC Final for the first time in history.

The victory sets up a mouth-watering encounter with last year's All-Ireland finalists Mayo on July 21.

Some of the victorious squad flew into Stansted airport while others headed for Luton yesterday after a night of celebration at the side's temporary base in the Springs Hotel in Athlone.

"It was magical," said London goal-scorer Ciaran McCallion, originally from Co Derry,

"There were a few sore heads around the place this morning, but we had to celebrate. It was a very emotional day. At the final whistle my father Tom ran on to the field and threw his arms around me and said: 'I'm so proud of you son'. He's not the kind of man to normally say such things so it was very special."

A site manager working at Heathrow airport, the 28-year-old from Greenlough was back at work this morning but admitted few will be aware of his achievements over the weekend.

"Most of the lads I work with on site would be from India, South Africa and Eastern Europe. They don't have a clue what Gaelic football is. There are a few chippies from Mayo alright so I'll be able to have the craic with them."

On the team coach to Dublin Airport, London captain Seamus Hannon could hardly be heard over teammates singing 'The Green Fields of France' in the background.

"When I left Ireland I never dreamed of playing in a provincial championship final," said the former Longford county footballer.

The Exiles' man mountain Lorcan Mulvey echoed those sentiments saying: "When lads move to London they come to work, not to play football, so this achievement just proves what amazing work is being done behind the scenes in London GAA."

London manager Paul Coggins, from Granlahan, Co Roscommon, celebrated in Fitzmaurice's pub in Ballinlough in his native county on Sunday night. "It was amazing. I was with my family and friends from the Michael Glaveys GAA club. There were songs being sung and others written on the spot to mark the win.

"It was the most emotional moment of my life when that final whistle went."

Mayor of London Boris Johnson praised London's "mightily impressive" victory but says he will be unable to attend the Connacht final in Castlebar despite a growing Twitter campaign. "Huge congratulations to the London team as they continue on with their historic march towards this year's Connacht Senior Football Championship Final," he said.

Irish Independent

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