By Damian Dolan
Whether it’s Monaghan, London, Monaghan Harps or St Mary’s, Fearghal McMahon’s only knows one thing, and that’s winning.
The corner forward, who transferred to St Brendan’s last year, has caught the eye in his three appearances so far for Ciaran Deely’s Exiles in the National League.
He racked up three points on his debut to help London to victory over Wicklow, and followed that with a 1-1, including a penalty, in the dramatic draw with Limerick.
Add in another two points against Antrim, and it’s been a good start to life in a London shirt for McMahon, who won Ulster titles with Monaghan at Under 21 and Minor.
“My mentality has always been, you go out and win the game,” McMahon told the Irish World. “All you want to do is win games and if that winning mentality isn’t there it’s very hard to go into a set-up like that.”
That it was McMahon who stepped up against Wicklow to take the Exiles’ first half penalty, after Ryan Elliott was fouled, should have come as no surprise.
And if London happen to be awarded a penalty against Sligo in the Connacht Championship, then Deely will have no fear if McMahon is the man to again place the ball on the spot. He’s already proven himself to have nerves of steel in that regard.
In 2013 it was McMahon’s injury-time spot-kick which completed Monaghan’s dramatic comeback against Tyrone from seven points down with 12 minutes to go, to win the Ulster Minor Championship for the first time in 68 years.
Add to that the fact that Gaelic Park was already beginning to fill up, with Donegal and Monaghan to come afterwards, it was a ‘pressure kick’ if ever there was one. Deely knows he has a man for the big stage.
“You’ll always remember days like that – those are the days you want to be involved in,” he said.
“You want to be playing in Ulster finals and National League promotion games – the big days are what you play football for.
“As the manager always says ‘you want to dine at the top table’.”
Three years later he was back with ‘three quarters’ of that Minor team to win the Under 21 Ulster title – Tyrone again the beaten finalists. The first time Monaghan had lifted the Under 21 Championship since 1999.
“It was nice to do the double against a very good Tyrone team,” reflects McMahon, who played in a Monaghan Senior Championship final with Harps in 2015.
Sligo will provide him with another of those ‘big days’ on 6 May when they come to McGovern Park in the Connacht Championship. For now, he’s set his sights on helping London to its best-ever finish to a National League campaign.
With one game remaining, the Exiles have five points, and victory over Waterford on Sunday at McGovern Park (1pm), after Leitrim handed the Exiles a walkover, would see them surpass their previous best return.
In 1993-94, in London’s first-ever season in the National League, they finished with six points thanks to two wins and two draws, from eight matches.
2018 will already go down as the first time London have won two games in the league, in the same season, since 2011.
“To get that win so early in the year [against Wicklow] and then get a result against Limerick, five points is big with one game left,” said McMahon, who missed London’s narrow defeat to Laois due to helping St Mary’s reach the Division 1 British University final in Birmingham.
“It’s now a matter of pushing on. We’ve been working on trying to cut out the mistakes which are costing us victories. It’s ironing out those mistakes in the last few minutes, and showing that bit more quality, that will get us over the line.”
Getting involved with London hadn’t been on McMahon’s radar when he arrived at St Mary’s in Twickenham to undertake a PGCE Teacher Training degree.
Unbeknown to McMahon, St Mary’s University men’s Gaelic team manager Cahir Healy recommended him to London, and he received a phone call from coach Joe Coulter.
That opportunity duly arrived the day before London’s 1-16 to 0-10 win over Wicklow.
“It was still a very good Wicklow side, because they’ve got results in their last few games, so it shows it wasn’t a walk in the park. It wasn’t a fluke either,” he said.
“It was a lovely introduction to get the win, and to get on the scoresheet as well.”
Now well settled into the London set-up, McMahon’s been impressed by what he’s seen, and has high praise for the Exiles’ captain in particular.
“When you’ve boys around you like Liam Gavaghan, you can learn so much from a man like that, who’s been with London for the last few years. I’d be basing my game on him,” he said.
“You would always think that London as a Division 4 team wouldn’t have that good a quality, but having stepped into the set-up and got to know the boys, it’s very professional.
“That comes from Ciaran Deely, and it rubs off on the players.
“They don’t just want to play a bit of football, they want to do well and play for the county (London). London isn’t there to make up the numbers.”