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My life: London's Philip Butler

Philip Butler has been making waves recently as the 20-year old is one of a new generation of players hitting the headlines, one of just two London natives on the history making London Senior Football squad.

Traditionally progression through the ranks would see players feature on county underage teams and then hit the big stage of the Senior panel, but not Butler, who shows that hard work and commitment can also reap rewards.

Amazingly, Butler pulled on the London jersey before featuring in a Senior game for his club Tir Chonaill Gaels, the current London champions.

With no representative honours on London sides, either in the All-Ireland Feile Peil na nóg competition, or at under 16 or Minor, it was on the club scene where Philip worked hard to make his mark.

A steady progression through club underage ranks to TCG's Junior team, one made up totally of born and bred English players.

"I wasn't really with the London Minors at all really. I was just 100% with my club. I was quite surprised, I got a call one day. It was a bit of a shock to me to be honest and here I am now two years later down the road we are in a Connacht Final."

TCG, the standard bearers at the moment in London club football, with 14 SFC titles, three in-a-row Under 21 Championship's from 2005-2007, and numerous other title successes. 

Butler was a part of a history making side at under 16 level, which swept the boards claiming a trio of London Under 16 League and Championships in succession, and also taking British Provincial Championship honours.

"I was involved with a very successful club team. We won the Under 16 three times in a row, so I've nearly won everything else since, right up to Minor. Under 21 is the only thing that I haven't ever won, so hopefully I can do that.

"We have a good setup there and there's lots more players coming through as well. I wouldn't even say I am the best at my age-group really. It's just a bit of luck on my side."

Although not featuring against Sligo, in that historic first win in 36 years, Butler has played all of the 140 minutes plus since, to get over Leitrim and help his side to their first ever provincial decider - a momentous year to date for the 20-year old Sports Therapy student at the University of Hertfordshire.

The league wasn't kind to the London team, finishing at the bottom of Division 4, with just one win. Butler is delighted that the wrongs at the start of the year are gone and that the pendulum has swung firmly in the opposite direction.

"Finally clicking together, all of the hard work we have put in. All of the running and stuff like that. We sure deserved it as well. Going through the league, we were hitting crossbars and posts and finally it turns our way."

Moving from the Junior ranks to the inter-county Senior football has been a major step up for Butler. Training three times a week on the pitch, and also gym-work, coupled with the extra intensity in games - it hasn't been easy.

But the trainee physio wouldn't have it any other way.

"It's good fun. You learn loads. I've learned so much and the intensity is so much higher and the pace as well. If you make a mistake you are going to get punished quickly. It is completely different to Juniors anyway, what I was playing last year. It's massive.

"The first year threw me a bit. You get a bit used to it after a while though. You enjoy it anyway. It's a sport you love and you would do it five times a week."

Butler says there's great banter when new players come into the side, perhaps expecting to hear all Irish accents, when his distinctly English tone can be heard.

"I get some bit of stick sometimes. I might be wearing an England top and I might get a bit of stick. A little bit of slagging, but it's all good hearted banter. There's a good team ethic here as well."

There's always a steady influx of Irish-born players into the English capital, and Butler is fully aware that natives such as himself have to go that extra mile in order to make their mark.

"There's a big difference in work-rate really I think too be honest. We probably have to catch up a bit. It's coming on a lot though. TCG have got an all-British team, St. Kieran's have got lots of young players. They have managed to keep a hold of them. 

"It's coming through slowly, but we just have to prove that we can play, so we know what we are like really."

The list of London born players pulling on the green and white jersey over the years has been small, indeed one has to go back to 2009 for the last London-born football to start a Championship game.

That honour fell to Adrian Moyles, who scored a point in London's 1-18 to 1-7 defeat to Galway in May of that year.

Butler knows that he is somewhat of a pioneer for the next generation.

"It's an extra added motivation. Hopefully more natives can flow through, because you can see that the hard work pays off," he said. 

Philip has also featured on the London side, made up of all British born players that took part in the All-British Championship this year in a competition which featured the Kilkenny footballers.

London exiting the competition at the quarter-final stage, having been pipped for a last-four place by eventual beaten finalists Hertfordshire.

Butler says there's a noticeable difference in standard between the competitions.

"It's a lot lower. Lancashire are pretty good. I remember we played them in the final and they are a pretty decent side. It's only London v Lancashire really."

There's plenty of GAA talk always in the Butler household, with Philip's mother Judy a Cork native, while his dad Philip has Wicklow and Cork connections.

"My parents are tremendously proud. They are very supportive as well and I wouldn't be able to do it without them or their support."

Philip's brother Killian is also an emerging talent, and is currently on the London Minor team that have qualified for the British MFC Final, after a recently 10-point semi-final demolition of Hertfordshire.

"My brother plays for London Under 16's and Minors, and he's coming through quite well, which is great to see. The underage system in London is pretty good at the minute and it can only benefit us going forward." 

Gaelic Football isn't Philip's only sporting passion, and he has a keen interest in Rugby Union, citing in the match programme for the London v Sligo game this Summer, that the sporting event he would pay in to see would have to be, 'anytime Wasps beat Leicester.'!

Indeed no surprise, when you hear that the Greenford native is currently on a work-placement at the famed London Rugby club.

With no GAA in the University of Hertfordshire, where he is studying, Butler spends his sporting time on the rugby pitches.

"There's no Gaelic Football team down there. It's just rugby. I play Rugby Union. I've played that for a couple of years. I just play in University at the moment, but we haven't had much success. We just scraped past relegation.

"It's not that great to be honest, but it's more social side of things really."

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