History was made last night as a British Army team persuaded rank and file members of London GAA to accept it as one of the county’s official football teams.
A private vote amongst London club representatives was deadlocked at 15 votes against allowing the Irish Guards team compete, and 15 votes for.
London GAA Chairman Noel O’Sullivan then had to give the deciding vote and ruled in favour of allowing them to join the county next season. They will start playing at Junior level.
Prior to the vote, former London chairman Tommy Harrell told the Irish World: “GAA should be about sport, not history.”
In July, the Irish World announced that the Irish Guards were looking to set up a team to join London GAA.
The regiment have a 45-strong panel that they wished to play competitive GAA next season so that they can enjoy a sport close to their heart.
The team’s organising sergeant told us: “This is a great opportunity for us as the Irish Guards to be able to play competitive GAA football, a sport close to our hearts and minds in a structured and disciplined way with like minded teams and individuals. What happens to fall out from this will only increase the current warmth felt in Anglo-Irish relations.”
They made their proposal to London delegates behind closed doors before being grilled by those not in favour of allowing them join.
The Irish Guards squad train every Tuesday and Thursday and have already been asked to play friendly games against two other London clubs.
The Irish Defence Force have also been in touch about a match. The Irish Guards already play golf with the Irish Defence Force, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Garda Siochana in what is called the Bond of Friendship between the several forces.
London GAA are working with the newly established team, with Community Development Administrator Lloyd Colfer running training courses to help with their preparation.
The organising sergeant says: “London GAA have been informative, supportive, really onside with us with everything from equipment to information to direction.”
The Irish Guards and their GAA initiative is fully supported by the military chain of command.
The 45-strong squad is made up of men from Ireland, of Irish descent and some who have no Irish connections at all. The Regiment includes Commonwealth soldiers from places such as Fiji.
The Irish Guards, always recruiting from Ireland, hope to have an Under 21 team in the future.
Their jersey, black and green, with the name Gardai Eireannah across the back, has been designed and is set to be added to the O’Neill’s Sportswear website and available for purchase. The socks will bear the regiment’s nickname, Micks.