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Comment & Analysis | Sport

The real story behind this London football team

Paul Coggins1-n
London manager Paul Coggins

GAELIC GAMES in London has never been taken too seriously by the proletariat in Ireland.This is understandable.

Success always makes for a better story which is why the footballer’s journey this year has been so eye-catching.

But if you haven’t read the script then here’s a refresher: a group of reluctant emigrants leave Ireland with heavy hearts only to find salvation through a Gaelic football team. Most are blue collar workers, surely! Hammering away on the sites by day, getting it together for training in the evening, then retreating to traditional Irish heartlands by night.

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There mustn’t have been a dry eye on Cricklewood Broadway when they beat Sligo and then Leitrim.

The problem with this fairy tale is it doesn’t quite read like this because the team reflects a cross section of the young Irish living in London today, made up of accountants and financial workers as well as those employed in the construction industry.

Many of the team live in London’s leafy southwest, not traditionally associated with the Irish, their focus is professional as well as recreational and their hearts aren’t heavy at all; rather their optimism has been buoyed by the reward for effort nature of this busy World centre and their willingness to overcome obstacles is something they’ve taken into the green of London.

As someone of the same age who has left, it’s easy to identity this team and interest is unparalleled among the Irish community for the same reason. This is a modern expression of where we are at overseas today, one that is so far removed from the kind of stereotyping that has seen this group portrayed as something to be enjoyed, but careful now, don’t take them too seriously.

Interviews by Skype, the suggestion that team London can treat this summer as some kind of holiday by one panellist on the Sunday Game and all too regular media line that makes more of cheesy clichés and Boris Johnson, than the real story, well, that would only take from the popular perception wouldn’t it.

The stands in Castlebar will not be bursting with London supporters this week. Most weekends the Exiles play at home in the League the best they can hope for is around 100 spectators, but you can expect that number to be at least 20 times that on Sunday.

And like the team, standing in the terraces will be those who left to do better; those who rightly or wrongly chose to change their environment for all sorts reasons but mainly to get on, to do more, to not accept things as they are.

It’s the reason we’re all here; the reason this London team has done what it’s done, a group that believes that despite seemingly insurmountable odds this Mayo challenge is something they can eyeball.

Wildly optimistic maybe, but I haven’t met too many pessimists in my short time here.

And the Irish media want a fairy tale?  They can’t see the wood from the trees.

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Robert Mulhern
ABOUT 

Robert is a freelance news and sports journalist. He is also the author of A Very Different County and creator/producer of Sex, Flights and Videotapes for RTE's Doc on One. Follow him @MulhernRobert on Twitter

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