HISTORY was made in London on Saturday when a GAA team formed from a British Army regiment played their first official game of Gaelic football.
Drawn from The Irish Guards, the newly named Naomh Padraig lined out in jerseys bearing the name Gardai Eireannach, as their new shirts are yet to arrive.
Last week, a source within the Irish Guards told The Irish Post: “It was asked could we change our name as this was a stumbling block for some members. As a result, the club voted to change our name to Naomh Padraig.”
Against the backdrop of Wormwood Scrubs Prison the team played the all English born Tir Chonaill Gaels junior side in the McArdle Cup.
“It’s the best day we’ve had since we came to England,” said Naomh Padraig manager Tom after the game. “It’s just fantastic to be here today.”
The debutants lost 1-7 to 0-6 after a closely fought contest presided over by former London manager Paul Coggins.
The Roscommon native, who is taking time out of top level football, is managing the Tir Chonaill Gaels Juniors this campaign.
He described the occasion as “historic”.
A sweep of accents from Dublin, Clare and Fermanagh were audible on the sidelines. And they all belonged to players from the Irish Guards.
Tom, from Waterford, said the idea for the team was formed among Irish solders serving in the regiment when they were completing a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
For York born goalkeeper David Bates the the historic contest was his first experience of Gaelic football.
“The coach walked past my room and he was like ‘do you want to play?’
“And I said ‘yeah, why not?’
“So I rocked up and went in goal. It’s probably where I belong.
“I’m immensely proud. We are living in each others pockets, know each others strengths and weaknesses and like that I think we probably have the tightest team in the world in terms of team cohesion.”
The team was accepted into the London JFC in September and have since survived a proposal for their removal from hurling club Granuaile.
“We’re living in a world of sport and as soon as you walk out into that pitch it doesn’t matter who you are. This is 2016. It’s a new world.” said Bates.