JOE meets.... London hero Paul Geraghty
It's July, and London are still in the championship. JOE talks to their inspirational Galway man Paul Geraghty about the Exiles' journey, and his hopes of getting a crack at his native county.
GAA folklore has but a few names reminiscent with greatness. Within their own counties they are hailed as true heroes – players of their era, capable of game-swinging performances and forever etching their names into the memories of supporters who hold them as a standard bearer for what comes after.
When one such legend, Willie Joe Padden, pulled Galway out of the bowl to face Meath in this weekend’s round of All-Ireland football qualifiers, there was a slight sigh of disappointment for one Glenamaddy man who is currently on his way to potentially becoming an equivalet to Willie Joe - in, of all places, Ruislip.
Paul Geraghty has inspired the Exiles since he arrived in London in 2008, but this year has been exceptional. It’s been decades since London tasted success anywhere close to this campaign. Neutrals have looked on with admiration as London ran Mayo down to the wire in the preliminary round of the Connacht championship, all the way into extra-time, and then trumped Fermanagh in the first round of the qualifiers.
Waterford now stand in the way of Geraghty getting a possible crack at his home county in round three – an occasion he, along with some fellow Galway Exiles, would savour.
“It’s championship so anything can happen. We’re reasonably happy with getting Waterford next. They’ve been doing pretty well in the last few years and there’s no such thing as an easy game but hopefully we’ll be able to pull off a result.
“Galway aren’t going the best at the moment. When the draw was being made I was almost sure we were going to get them. I wouldn’t know many of the new lads in the panel now as it’s been a few years since I was involved. For me now, it wouldn’t be as big a deal playing against them as it would have been a couple of years ago.
“But I‘d love a crack at them if we got through the Waterford game, and there are a few Galway lads here on this panel that feel the same.”
Geraghty performing as a Tribesman in the 2007 National League
Shelve that thought, though, because London are just grateful to be in the championship in July. It’s unfamiliar territory. Come this time of year they are well accustomed consigning themselves back into their jobs, their primary reason for leaving Ireland.
“I’m an engineer manager at the Olympic Games village here in London. There’s a good few Irish lads but it’s predominantly Eastern European guys working on this project,” Geraghty says.
“I’m here since March 2008. The company I was working for at home back then advised me to start looking elsewhere because Ireland was on the downturn and it turned out to be right. I’m just glad I got over here before too many arrived looking for work.”
As more and more GAA clubs lose players to emigration, London has become one of the top destinations for job-seekers and the exodus is more apparent than ever.
To win a Connacht championship game is the main aim and maybe try to get into a Connacht final
A growing Irish and GAA community in London has lent itself to the success of the senior footballers this year, as Geraghty explains.
“There’s a wide range of clubs represented on the panel at the moment but when they all come together with the county team everyone is great buddies. We always socialise after games together and that’s pretty important for any team.
“That has been happening over the last couple of months. Guys go out together on Saturday nights and they’d meet up again on Mondays to go to the gym together and back training again on Tuesdays. So that has built up a lot of relationships with new lads. It makes it easier when we’re all rowing in the same direction.”
Bonding abroad is clearly important and one of the driving forces behind the meshing together is manager Paul Coggins, who hails from Granlahan in Roscommon – just a few miles away from Geraghty’s home place.
“Paul’s interest and his drive is incredible. He’d do anything for any player and the lads want to give him something in return. A couple of strong players arriving into town helped us as well. The big thing with playing for London is to give the commitment because of travel – it’s a very hard place to get around, you’re talking about a couple of hours to get to training in the evenings. This year guys have been giving that commitment more so than other years.
“Bonding weekends have definitely helped the team also. We’ve been away together a couple of times and that’s helped us to gel.”
No matter what happens this weekend, London have much to be proud about. They have sent out a warning to all Connacht counties with their performances in the championship thus far and although their run is likely to come to end before we reach Croke Park quarter-finals, winning a provincial championship match is now the realistic goal set out for next season.
“The last couple of years we’ve never been too far away from whoever we were playing," says Geraghty. "Maybe the results might not have been too flattering at the end when we might have run short of fitness or match practise but generally we’d never have been beaten too badly in the last couple of years.
"To win a Connacht championship game is the main aim. And maybe we can try to get to a Connacht final.”
London meet Waterford in Round 2 of the All-Ireland SFC qualifers on Saturday in Ruislip at 6.30pm