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Irish Mail: Men of Tir Chonaill look to make History

Tomorrow, those that have never been there will get to see Ruislip like they have never seen it before.

In the past, the only images of the home of London GAA that we got to see through our TV monitors were fleeting and shaky

Usually, RTE might dispatch a camera to do an ‘atmosphere’ piece rather than a conventional ‘highlights’ package which would be attached to the nether regions of the Sunday Game’s highlights programme which would document the latest savaging doled out to the exiles annually in the Connacht championship

No need, then, to go mad with resources so one or two cameras scanned the images back home for a package, in terms of production, that was closer to a wedding video than a high tech sports broadcast.

Tomorrow will be different. For the first time in the history of the GAA, TV cameras will broadcast live a championship game from beyond these shores as TG4 give the AIB All-Ireland club SFC quarter-final between London champions Tir Chonaill Gaels and Kilmurry-Ibrickane, conquerors of Kerin’s O Rahilly’s in the Munster final, the full treatment.

Mind you, it won’t make for a spectacular backdrop; London’s county ground consists of a clubhouse and a pitch, but their champions promise to be a tad easier on the eye.

Their manager, Roscommon native Paul Coggins, is aware of the little bit of GAA broadcasting history that is being made tomorrow and chooses to use it as a measure of just how far his club have travelled.

‘It is a great occasion for the club, for London and indeed for the GAA in the whole of Britain,’ says Coggins.

‘I think it is an acknowledgement that because we have been so close over the last number of years that they feel that it is worth looking at us this year.

‘In the past, the media would have just automatically written us off and openly talked about a Kilmurry and Portlaoise semi-final. That’s how it was in the past and it always hurt no matter how much you say otherwise, that people did not see us as the serious team that we have always perceived ourselves to be ’ says Coggins.

Respect is the very least that they are owed. Others who wore their red and white colours in the early 90s would argue that they might even be owed more… like an All-Ireland.

In just their second All-Ireland quarter-final appearance back in 1991, they took Derry champions Lavey to a replay, and when they crossed the Irish Sea for the replay, only some contentious refereeing decisions cost them a place in the semi-final, after they forced the issue to extra time. The Derry club would go on and win the All-Ireland. That Tir Chonaill team was packed with quality – at one stage in the early 90s, they fielded a forward line where five or the starting six had played senior championship at inter-county level.

Those great days are behind them but the ones that followed have still been good. Sunday will be their 13th time, their fourth in the last five years, reaching this stage, but the win they crave still eludes them.

Such serial failure might hint at a club caught in a psychological death-grip, but Coggins, who as player and manager has been involved in nine of those previous quarter-finals, has a more positive take on that stat.

‘I would say that we are the most experienced team playing in an All-Ireland quarter-final. For a lot of these boys, this is their fourth quarter-final, they have played against Corofin, Crossmaglen and Salthill.

‘Psychologically I think we can take something from that. The lads know that they are not far away. We have lost because of basic errors but we have the belief to know that we can change and that we can win.’

Last year provided their heaviest defeat in that sequence when they lost by seven points to Corofin, where coughing up two early goals cost them dearly.

Otherwise, as their manager points out, they matched a team that are strong contenders for the main prize this year ‘point for point.’

And they are stronger this year. Staying true to their historical links, they have a new look attack with the acquisition of three players from Donegal, all from the Termon club, Declan Alcorn, Marty Sweeney and Kevin ‘Wappa’ McMenamin.

And the talk is that it could get even better for the Gaels. McMenamin’s county colleague Eamon McGee along with Cavan’s Gerard Pierson are both training with the club, but Coggins plays down expectation that his club and London, in general, are about to cash in on Ireland’s economic depression.

‘The thing about very good players coming from Ireland is that their club and county will fight tooth and nail to get to them to play at home when the time comes.

‘As of now, neither of them (Pierson or McGee) have signed for our club because neither of them have made a decision.

‘I can’t play them anyway so I have not really discussed it with them until this season ends.

‘But we would hope and we will be trying to get people of that quality to join the club.’

But the future for Tir Chonaill is to grow their own. Come April, every Friday night their Greenford pitches will transform into a playground for the 100 odd kids who are part of a juvenile set-up that fields teams from under-10 up.

Three London born players, Stefan Carr, Gavin McEvoy and Liam Gavaghan – the latter is likely to start – will be in their dressing room on Sunday, all part of a panel hell bent of making the most of their rare prime time role.

‘Now we have to make sure that we do the respect that has been shown to us justice and show everyone what London football can do. I think we will do that. I know we will,’ says Coggins.




All-Ireland Quarter Final Record

1984: Burren (Down) 3-12, Tir Chonaill Gaels 0-2
1990: Lavey (Derry) 2-11, Tir Chonaill Gaels 1-12 (After extra-time)
1992: Lavey (Derry) 0-12, Tir Chonaill Gaels 1-7
1993: Castlebar Mitchels (Mayo) 0-11, Tir Chonaill Gaels 0-8
1996: Knockmore (Mayo) 1-11,Tir Chonaill Gaels 2-6
1997: Castlehaven (Cork) 0-15, Tir Chonaill Gaels 0-8
1998: Crossmaglen Rangers (Armagh) 1-18, Tir Chonaill Gaels 0-8
2000: Nemo Rangers (Cork) 2-8, Tir Chonaill Gaels 0-6
2001: Ballinderry (Derry) 2-10, Tir Chonaill Gaels 0-6
2006: Salthill-Knocknacarra 0-9 (Galway), Tir Chonail Gaels (London) 0-5.
2008: Crossmaglen Rangers (Armagh) 0-10, Tir Chonaill Gaels 0-6
2009: Corofin (galway) 2-7, Tir Chonaill Gaels 0-6
2010: Kilmurry Ibrickane (Clare) ? Tir Chonaill Gaels ?

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