The weather may be freezing but Ruislip will be boiling over with excitement this Sunday as Tir Chonaill Gaels, the leading light in London football, attempt to create history and become the first Exile side to register a victory in the AllIreland Senior Club Football Championship.
The festive period has flown by for most of us but for the London champions, impatience tugged at their sleeves. The visit of Munster champions Kilmurry Ibrickane was already playing on their minds.
And should they rock the GAA to its core and end their AllIreland club hoodoo, the celebrations around Greenford will easily eclipse anything that was witnessed when counting down the New Year.
This January outing is almost becoming an annual occurrence for the Greenford men, Sunday’s clash with the men from the Banner their fourth AllIreland club quarter-final in five years.
On the last three occasions there has been little separating the sides, only for the Londoners to fall agonisingly short each time.
TCG are hoping that the new decade will spark a change in fortunes, and they have certainly put the work in.
The severe weather back in Ireland put paid to the squad meeting over Christmas, but they have all stuck to their individual training schedules and have returned to the English capital chomping at the bit.
Kilmurry Ibrickane will prove a tough nut to crack however. They may not be in the same league of Crossmaglen and Corofin — TCG’s last two All-Ireland opponents — when it comes to history, but they are intent on changing that and two consecutive Munster final appearances signals their intent.
Clare may not be a major force on the inter-county scene, but club level is a different story altogether, something that TCG are all too aware of.
“We’re taking them very seriously, we’re way wiser than that,” said TCG manager Paul Coggins. “All-Ireland Club Championships are a completely different kettle of fish. It doesn’t matter what county you’re from. Kilmurry Ibrickane have won the last two Clare Championships and appeared in the last two Munster finals.
“To lose a provincial final and then come back with the determination that they did sums them up. Just look at the way they played against Kerins O’Rahillys in the Munster final. They didn’t care about facing such a big name, they just got on with their job.
“We’re the underdogs.We know that, just look at what the bookies are saying (TCG are currently priced at 5/1).We’re going to be up against it facing the Munster champions. They’re a consistent team but you could say the same about us. This is not our first time in this position so we won’t lack experience, and we won’t lack fitness and footballing ability either.”
Such is the fate of London sides, TCG have been frustrated by the lack of competitive action since they defeated Neasden Gaels in the county final replay last October.
In the meantime, Kilmurry Ibrickane were busy powering their way past Stradbally, Drom-Broadford and Kerins O’Rahillys en route to their second Munster title in six years.
Even Coggins’ attempts to arrange a couple of challenge games over Christmas fell foul of the weather, so there is a huge imbalance when talking about the sides’ on-field preparations.
However, what TCG do have is the experience from the last two years to dwell on, where both Crossmaglen and Corofin were glad to get out of Ruislip in one piece.
“Hopefully we’ve taken in the positives from those games, such as how we stood toe-to-toe with some of Ireland’s best,” said Coggins.
“They’ve given us the belief that we can match teams, and that’s what it’s all about at this level. The lads have the talent, they have the fitness, it’s now about bringing the belief and making sure their concentration is 100 per cent. We’ve got to take our chances and keep errors to a minimum.”
The Ruislip terrain will almost certainly not provide any assistance in that area. The recent weather will mean the pitch will be heavy underfoot and draining, so player fitness in the closing stages could be crucial.
You can guarantee TCG will have the work put in here though. For this is what drives them on, what makes them tick, testing themselves against the best Ireland has to offer.
After TCG completed a hat-trick of county titles late last year, Coggins admitted that it was the All-Ireland Club Championship that spurred him on, the chance of a London side making a mark on the All-Ireland scene.
“I stand by what I said. I know it’s a big statement to make but that’s where we want to be,” stated the Roscommon native. “I’m not trying to belittle the London Championship, we’ve been delighted to win the three-in-a-row but it’s time for the next challenge. It’s time to stand up and be counted in the big game.
“Everyone is in great form and a positive frame of mind; we’ve done the best we could. Given the weather
conditions it was impossible for us to meet up over Christmas so the lads had to do their own thing, but in fairness to them they did.
“It’s been difficult to find suitable venues, which is frustrating but with regard to our preparation I’m more than happy. We’ve done a lot of hard work over the past year. We would have liked a few games to keep us ticking over but we’re doing okay.”
The historic news that TG4 will be covering the game live has added to the hype surrounding the game, and Coggins is calling on all London Gaels to unite for one day only, to play their part in what could be one of the greatest days in the history of GAA in the county.
“Kilmurry Ibrickane will have a big crowd behind them so I’d be hoping that all the London clubs will come out and support us. It’s for one day only; we can go back to battling with each other afterwards!
“I hope people see that we’re trying to do our best for London and I would be very proud if we could make the breakthrough.We want to make people in Ireland sit up and take notice of London football.”
The stage is set. Will the Banner be blown away by a Gaels force? All roads lead to Ruislip this Sunday.
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