Carr targets All-Ireland glory with Gaels
By Damian Dolan
Tir Chonaill Gaels look set to the emerge as the biggest threat to Fulham Irish’s London championship crown next year, that’s if former Kilmacud Crokes manager Paddy Carr has anything to do with it
Director of Football at the Greenford club for the past six years, and part of the club’s first-ever London championship winning side in 1983, Carr stepped down from the manager’s post at Kilmacud Crokes last month after four years and now looks to make the Gaels his top priority.
The Greenford club will mark its 50th Anniversary in 2012, but Carr’s ambitions go well beyond ensuring there’s silverware to parade at next year’s anniversary dinner, with the man who led Crokes to All-Ireland Club Championship glory in 2008/09 is setting his sights on doing the same with Tir Chonaill Gaels.
Fulham Irish recently added their name to the long list of London champions who’ve tried and failed to bridge the gap club championship chasm, and there in lies the appeal for Carr.
“There’s very few stories left to be told within the GAA, or very few firsts that haven’t been achieved,” said Carr.
“Getting right to the cutting edge of the club championship is something that hasn’t happened for London clubs yet, but it’s an enormous challenge and I have always enjoyed in football trying to do what other people said can’t be done.
“That’s where the real challenge is and that’s why I would be very enthusiastic about what’s ahead. If this was easy everyone would have done it.”
Like many before him, Fulham manager Liam Barry lamented the lack of competitive games between winning the county final and their quarter-final against Roscommon’s St Brigid’s.
Taking time to adjust to the pace of their opposition, who’d been cutting their teeth in the Connacht Championship in the meantime, the south London club were seven points down before they knew what had hit them.
It’s a problem that next year’s London champions, and all those that follow, will inevitably face, but Carr is convinced that the step up can be made.
“One of the hurdles that successful teams have to get over in London is building the right type of mindset. There has been the mindset that this is a cliff face and it can’t be done,” he said.
“We would be working strongly, and we will be working very strongly, to suck any type of negativity in and around that out of the Tir Chonaill Gaels’ dressing room.
“It’s about creating a can-do mindset and irradiating any opportunity for people making excuses that they can’t perform at that level, because the margins are very thin.
“I’ve been present at Ruislip at a number of those games over the last few years and it’s very evident to see the teams that believe they can do it, and those I felt believed they couldn’t, even before they went onto the field. It’s a big challenge changing that mindset.”
It remains to be seen whether Carr’s plan for Tir Chonaill Gaels involves him actually taking on the manager’s role, and he instead prefers to talk in terms of management teams and the importance of surrounding yourself with good people, like he did at Kilmacud Crokes with the likes of Des Newton, now the Roscommon manager.
But what shines through in conversation with Carr is his passion for the club, and his intention to be much more involved next year.
“I will be giving a serious amount of attention and focus to building the club and building success on the playing field,” he said.
“I believe that Tir Chonaill Gaels is a very, very special club. I’ve seen the effort, the endeavour, the enthusiasm and the passion that a core group of people have carried through that club over a good number of years.
“I’ve huge respect for those people and the likes of Tom Mohan the chairman – he’d be a stand out person in my mind.
“None of that [the manager’s job] has been worked out at the moment. My role there is as director of football and it’s very much in conjunction with all the key stake holders within the club.
“There hasn’t been anything organised vis-à-vis at this moment with regards who actually manages the team, but it’s important to get the right people steering that process.”
Such statements are likely to be warmly received in one corner of Greenford. While 2010 saw the club fail to grace the county final for the first time in three years, this year they were notable absentees from even the semi-final line up.
But a little delve further and it’s soon very apparent that Carr’s motives go far deeper than just securing success for the club he holds such deep affection. It’s also about making sure young GAA talent which is forced to head to these shores due to the economic downturn in Ireland doesn’t go to waste.
“I feel a very strongly about what is happening in Ireland economically and to see the finest young people leaving Ireland,” said Carr.
“The GAA in London can now come into its own in terms of offering young lads who are seriously ambitious about their Gaelic football careers and challenging for honours at the highest level. That is the goal of Tir Chonaill Gaels - to provide that opportunity.
“The human cost [of the economy in Ireland] is that so many of our finest kids are having to leave Ireland, and that’s why I would be very, very passionate about being at the fulcrum of trying to organise things within Tir Chonaill Gaels, and indeed within the wider context of London GAA.
“For me it’s very important that the message gets out there that London GAA is very serious about it’s football.
“It’s about getting the right people in the right place to ensure that any young lad who has to leave Ireland will be stepping up to a higher level when they come to London, not the other way round.”
His role as director of football is to ensure that the right values and culture is created in the dressing room, and that the right type of focus and energy is given to the development of the team. He also played a central role in Tir Chonaill’s five-year strategic plan, which will come to fruition next year.
“There are clubs in London who are absolutely serious that if a player moves from Ireland to London, or England, that his ambition as a Gaelic footballer to achieve the highest honours will not suffer,” he said.
“Tir Chonaill Gaels and other clubs in London will now be well placed to the challenge for the highest honours in club football and that will lift the county as well.
I intend to play a very central role at management level in terms of making that happen.”
Indeed, at Kilmacud Crokes, Carr’s greatest satisfaction was not the two Dublin senior titles, the two Leinster championships or the All-Ireland triumph over Crossmaglen Rangers in 2009, it was the pleasure of seeing that success achieved with a young side, including the likes of Kevin Nolan, Cian O’Sullivan and Rory O’Carroll.
“It’s not just the winning of titles. The huge satisfaction was bringing through and developing young players from underage and to then see a number of them, in a short period of time, go through what we achieved and then play on the third Sunday in September and win an All-Ireland with Dublin,” he said.
His decision to stand down after four years owed much to Kilmacud’s defeat to Crossmaglen earlier this year in the All-Ireland semi-finals, and the feeling that events conspired against the Dublin side that day, most notably the sendings off of Nolan and Brian McGrath, which were later rescinded. Failure to reach the quarter-finals in Dublin this year signalled the end for Carr.
“If a few things had turned in our favour this year we could have gone back and righted what was an injustice that day. But it didn’t come right and I felt in the best interests of the club a fresh face was the right thing,” he said.
“These things are based on good feelings and I certainly haven’t closed the door to Kilmacud up along the road at some stage.
“It was very much my own decision. The club were very respectful of that and it was very emotional all round, because we have certainly had a very special journey over the last few years.
“The last few years with Kilmacud have been a very special time. My love and addiction to Gaelic football came from there and to go back and manage them to what is the Holy Grail of club football, an All-Ireland title, was a very special feeling.”
Could Carr be set to try and mastermind something similar at Tir Chonaill Gaels?