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07th Nov 2023

“It’s coming back on Sunday is the problem.” – Fulham Irish have the logistics in place for Mayo trip

Niall McIntyre

A 47-strong Fulham Irish contingent, of players, officers, management and backroom team, will descend on Castlebar this Saturday morning.

And that’s not even including the supporters.

The panel are all booked into the Ellison Hotel in the middle of the town but for now, their only focus is on MacHale Park for a six o’clock throw-in.

From the minute they defeated Tír Chonaill in last Sunday’s London final, Fulham Irish knew that Ballina Stephenites were next up, that the game was going to be in Mayo, and so they wasted no time in booking flights and accommodation.

Having formed in January 2006, Fulham Irish won the London and British intermediate championships that same year, earning themselves a trip to Mayo to face Killala in the All-Ireland junior quarter final.

This will be their first away trip since, and the excitement is palpable.

Carlow man John Doyle co-founded the club 18 years ago and remains one of its key pillars, double-jobbing as club treasurer and as a selector for the senior team.

Doyle was already in overdrive by last Monday morning, with the quick turn-around putting the club in the hands of the airlines and the hoteliers.

“It’s been a small-time-window,” Doyle tells SportsJOE.

“You’re flying into Connacht, which doesn’t give you much of a choice – It’s air-line friendly, we’ll say, when it is such a small time-window.”

Doyle says that with their initial quote somewhere in the region of €15,700, Fulham Irish had no option but to look elsewhere.

After plenty of scheduling and plotting and probing and searching, they have all the plans in place with four days to spare.

“We’re flying from Heathrow to Knock at 11 am Saturday morning, to arrive in Knock at 12.30. We’re staying in Castlebar in the Ellison and we’re being hosted by Paddy Moran’s Pub.”

“It’s coming back on Sunday is the problem,” Doyle says, as regards the airfares. 

“One airline wanted €392 per person to do a group booking, to fly back on Sunday.

“That’s expensive now. That’s €15,700 altogether.

“You get a grant of around €11,000 off the GAA. So if one flight is going to put you €4000 over the budget for the whole thing, you’re in a bit of strife.

“So we changed airlines.

“So now we’ve some fellas flying to Stansted at 9.05, at 11.05 to Luton and some at 1.00 to Heathrow, and that worked out at half the price of the other one, with the lads booking the flights individually.”

“The people in the Ellison have been fantastic,” Doyle continued, “they’re opening the kitchen early for the boys on Saturday morning to do breakfast for the boys heading early.

“They were very accommodating to us.”

Fulham Irish’s Marty Hughes celebrates after scoring a goal against Corofin in 2018. Corofin 3-8 Fulham Irish 1-4 was the final score. 

“We have 47 staying in the hotel on Saturday night. That’s only the people involved with the team.”

“That’s without family and supporters.

“Like, the hotel rang me up and said, ‘here listen, what have you been telling them about a Fulham Irish discount in the hotel? We’re fielding loads of calls here.’

“I said ‘sure I didn’t tell anyone.’ Sure enough it was some of the supporters looking for a deal,” he says.

Former Dublin minor and under-20 Niall O’Leary has been a key player for Fulham Irish this year, kicking 0-4 in their county final win.

He’s an older brother of Kilmacud Crokes wing back Mark and such connections run right through the team. Midfielder David O’Connor is a former Leitrim senior while Kerry’s Jack Goulding, more renowned as a hurler, is described by Doyle as the ‘top GAA player in London.’

“Down are best represented on our team. We’ve Dublin, Tyrone and Cork lads, a boy from Mayo, Leitrim, Kerry and Antrim.

“A couple of Galway lads. There’s great excitement.”

“Ex-players that have played with us are coming too.

“One of our ex-players Lorcan Mulvey is our manager, he would have been part of the 2011 team when we won the first London championship.

“He’s been involved with the London senior team since he arrived in 2011, as a player and as part of the management. We’re expecting a huge crowd.

“Lots of them have played underage for their counties.”

That being said, Doyle is in no doubt that for all the young people leaving Ireland, the influx into London isn’t what it once was.

He puts that down to the high cost of living in the city with construction workers now more likely to head to Birmingham, Manchester or even Scotland.

To make up for this, the club have put huge efforts into their underage set-up, with many of their former players heading a coaching initiative that has brought in 100 London-born underage players this year.

But for now, their only focus is on Ballina Stephenites. Doyle knows they’ll be up against it.

“Everything’s focused on 6.00 Saturday evening and giving it our best shot.

“They’ll be hungry for it. The last time they won it was 2007. This is our first trip back since 2007 and we’re all systems go.”

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