Belfast Telegraph

London calling... on gods to work biggest miracle in GAA ever

Adrian Rutherford

IF the bookies are to be believed, they may as well not even bother turning up.

But a group of Ulster GAA players will be aiming to help pull off one of sport's greatest ever upsets this weekend in the Connacht Senior Football final.

The London team taking on Mayo in tomorrow's provincial decider in MacHale Park in Castlebar contains several Ulster exiles now living in England.

But the odds are stacked against them, with Mayo priced at 500/1 ON to take the title.

Win or lose, it has still been a memorable season for the Exiles. The team is mainly comprised of Irish emigrants to Britain. It had struggled to make an impact against the traditional heavyweights of the GAA – until this year.

In May the team ended a 36-year wait for a Connacht championship win when they beat Sligo. But the adventure didn't end there and, in another massive upset, London edged out Leitrim in the semi-finals to book its place in the final.

The team is drawn from all four corners of Ireland, including five from Northern Ireland.

Among them is Eamon McConville, a 26-year-old accountant from Co Down, who plays half-back. He explained how many young footballers have left Ireland in search of work.

"Most of the boys I grew up with are in London or Australia," he said. "So I decided maybe I should look further afield as well."

Derryman Caolan Doyle (24) plays in midfield and has worked in London as a teacher for the past 18 months.

"There was practically no chance of me getting a job at home," he said.

Although he's from a county steeped in GAA tradition, Doyle said: "I'd never any real ambition to play for Derry, to be honest I was more into soccer growing up. I've never represented Derry at minor, under-21 or any grade, nor am I likely to."

With a growing Irish diaspora, GAA is becoming more and more popular in London, and there are now two teams – North London and South London – at underage level.

Both are filled with English boys and young Gaelic footballers of African descent.

Dave McGreevey, a Co Down man working in recruitment, has big hopes for the future.

"In 10 years' time I'd love to see a team made up completely of English people," he said.

"It's a good enough sport not to depend solely on Irish people playing it over here."

That's for the future, however. First, London has a final to concentrate on, and the small matter of trying to outwit Mayo.

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