Sole ‘survivor’ of that 2013 clash – and its man of the match – reflects on a most memorable encounter
By Damian Dolan
The sole starting line up survivor of London’s historic victory over Sligo at Ruislip five years ago, 2013 will always be “bitter-sweet” for Mark Gottsche.
History was made when the Exiles beat Sligo 1-12 to 0-14 to record a first Connacht Championship victory for 36 years.
Gottsche was a deserving man of the match that day, contributing four points from midfield in an inspired display, which also saw him named GPA/GAA player of the month for May.
While Philip Butler and Martin Carroll were both on the panel, neither featured against the Yeats men.
“Like no more than any other team, you set out in November to have an impact on that year’s championship, and we did that in 2013,” says Gottsche.
“For a lot of guys that summer was the pinnacle of their playing careers, to go on and play in a Connacht final.
“It was something we’ll always remember. It is something that will stick with us and our families, and all of the people within London GAA. The journey we went through after we beat Sligo.”
For Gottsche, 2013 was the “culmination of three years of work”. He’d been part of the team which took Mayo to extra-time in 2011 and ended London’s long wait for a championship victory when they beat Fermanagh in the qualifiers in a “landmark” moment.
London would come close again in 2012, losing out to Leitrim by just two points on a wet and miserable day at Ruislip.
And so to Sligo. In the warm up, Gottsche felt it was on, and he wasn’t alone.
“Some days you just get a feeling that it’s going to be your day. A lot of the other guys had the same feeling without vocalising it. We had that belief built up that we could deliver on the day,” he said.
Gottsche had had the same feeling two years earlier against James Horan’s Mayo, when the Exiles famously led by two with just two minutes to go.
“We were confident we could run them [Mayo] close and give them a good game, and it was the same against Sligo.
Memories of the game are vivid for Gottsche.
Lorcan Mulvey’s goal helped London to a four-point lead at the end of a first half in which Padraig McGoldrick saw his penalty saved by Philip Greene and Pat Hughes smashed one against Declan Traynor’s crossbar.
“Once Lorcan got the goal, which was a great move up the line, we took control of the rest of the first half, and the third quarter,” recalled Gottsche.
London increased their advantage to seven points before McGoldrick’s sending off in the 50th minute opened the door for Kevin Walsh’s side.
“Sligo came at us in waves after that and we were bailing water for the last ten minutes,” he added.
“Obviously going down a man didn’t help, but we knew Sligo would have their purple patch. Even if we’d have had 15 on the pitch, Sligo would have come back into the game at some point.”
Sligo racked up eight points with London increasingly under the cosh. Gottsche, though, remembers Paul Geraghty catching a kick-out “with one hand”.
The crucial score for London would come from one of its Mayo contingent, Sean Kelly, with just minutes to go. It proved to be the winning one.
Gottsche said: “It just gave us a little bit of boost in energy and confidence that we could see it out.”
The Yeats men fought back to within a solitary score and a frantic finish saw Hughes hit the crossbar for a second time, and time stand still, before the rebound was bundled wide. Sligo appealed vehemently for a 45, but for once the GAA Gods favoured London.
If the decision was a slice of good fortune, it was long overdue for the Exiles in Connacht.
Traynor’s kick-out signalled the final whistle, and joyous celebrations. For Gottsche, the overriding emotions were relief and happiness.
“The realisation of what you’ve done then sinks in in the dressing room. You’re sore and tired, but everyone is sitting there with a smile on their face,” he said.
That set up a semi-final meeting with Leitrim in Carrick-on-Shannon, but Gottsche would last just 29 minutes, as an injury picked up in training prior to the Sligo match forced him off.
A specialist diagnosed Gilmore’s Groin – a tear of the adductor muscles – and he underwent surgery a week after London’s semi-final replay win over Leitrim, and was ruled out of the Connacht final with Mayo. He’d also sit out London’s Round 4 qualifier with Cavan at Croke Park.
Bitter-sweet memories for Gottsche, having played such a prominent role in the victory over Sligo, but he certainly hasn’t given up hope of one day making that elusive Connacht final appearance.
“The ambition every year is to get back to those highs and that success. You want to win games and be playing at the highest level. We all think we’re good enough to repeat it,” he said.