Damian Dolan looks at the clubs who’ll be vying to be crowned Irish World senior football champions for 2018.
Fulham Irish will attempt to make it back-to-back senior titles when they open their championship defence against Parnells this weekend.
The holders, who have Owen Mulligan back on board to augment some more than useful additions, have timed their preparations specifically for championship, but Greg McCartan’s side know they’ll face stiff competition. Not least from Tir Chonaill Gaels.
The Greenford outfit, who have contested the last six county finals but ended up on the losing side in the last two, have Paul Coggins back at the helm in an endeavour to put that right this year.
They’ve already lifted the Conway and Tipperary cups, as well as winning the Division 1 league final, to lay down a serious marker. Their clash with Fulham will be a highlight of the group stage.
St Kiernans, champions in 2016, and Round Towers will be there or thereabouts as always, while North London Shamrocks have made some very eye-catching signings.
Since winning intermediate in 2015, the Shamrocks have graced the semi-finals on one occasion. With the likes of Liam Irwin, Eoin Flanagan, Peter Witherow and Eoin Culligan in their ranks, they’ll be looking to improve on that record this time around.
Parnells will be hell-bent on avoiding being in the relegation play-off again this year, and if they’re strengthened by former Derry star Eoin Bradley then they may have loftier ambitions than that.
Kingdom Kerry Gaels have had a difficult year, but they’ve found some form in recent weeks and are a club never to be underestimated.
For the romantics, Cuchulainns return to senior for the first time since the mid-1950s, having won intermediate last year, and the east Londoners will have no intention of just making up the numbers.
Manager – Tony Fayne
Captain – Darren McManus (pictured below)
Key man – Fiachra McArdle – The Louth man is a vital source of points from corner forward. Scored 1-8 in last year’s intermediate final win over Harlesden Harps.
One to watch – Cianan Byrne – The Meath man does some great work around midfield. His speed has already caused opposing teams problems in league Division 1.
London SFC titles – 3
Last London SFC title – 1952
2017 – Intermediate championship winners
Players out – Ger Byrne, Sean Dirrane, Sean Maloney.
Players in – Shane McWeeney (Ballinamore Sean O’Heslins, Leitrim), Jack Mulhern (Cloich Cheann Fhada, Donegal), Cillian Reilly (Bective, Meath), Kieran Sullivan.
Cuchulainns assistant manager Joe Cashman: “It’s a big step up in terms of size, speed and skill, but we moved up to Division 1 league football this year and that was important. We’ve been playing against all of the senior teams this year.
“We’ve no illusions; we expect to be the underdogs in every single game. It’s the club’s first time playing senior championship for 60 years. We’ll take every game as it comes and just give it our best.”
Manager – Greg McCartan
Captain – Michael Murphy
Key man – Owen Mulligan (pictured below) – The former Tyrone star kicked the winning point in last year’s final and his influence will again be vital to Fulham’s cause, both on and off the pitch.
One to watch – Liam Staunton – the half forward won an All-Ireland intermediate title with Mayo’s Westport in 2017, and made his London debut earlier this year. McCartan regards him as “one of the best players in London” and is expecting “big things”.
London SFC titles – 2
Last London SFC title – 2017
2017 – Champions
Players out – Daniel Eastwood, Rowan Turley, Sean O’Sullivan, Benny Martin.
Players in – Gavin Nugent (Rathgormack, Waterford), David Givney (Mountnugent, Cavan), Lorcan Mulvey (Butlersbridge, Cavan), Michael Walsh (Tara).
Fulham Irish manager Greg McCartan: “We’ve a big battle ahead of us, because everyone is going to be after us. When you’re top dog, everyone wants to take a scalp at you so we’re looking for a lot of players to really step up this year.
“Motivation is going to be a factor and we’ve also got to make sure we’ve got a freshness to the team, and that spine. We’re certainly going to find out over the next few weeks whether we have it.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge and having another run at it, but nothing is set in stone. Three matches in a row, you’d better hope you’ve got a strong squad.”
Manager – Jimmy Holly
Captain – Caoimhin Carty
Key man – Marcus Mangan (pictured below) – Had a good year for London having previously played senior for Kerry. The skilful centre back covers a lot of ground and links play well.
One to watch – Shane O’Connor – The wing forward from Laune Rangers in Kerry has impressed since coming on board in recent weeks. Lively and well able to take a score.
London SFC titles – 12 (10 as the Kingdom)
Last London SFC title – 2013
2017 – Group stage
Players out – Ronan O’Boyle (Round Towers), Danny O’Sullivan, Dave McGreevy, James Coffey, Ciaran Campbell.
Players in – Caoimhin Carty (Aghamore, Mayo), Shane O’Connor (Laune Rangers, Kerry), Jason O’Connor (Beaufort, Kerry).
Kingdom Kerry Gaels manager Jimmy Holly: “If we’ve a full team we feel we can give most teams a rattle.
“We got a couple of good early results in the league but then faded. We’ll now give it a rattle in the championship and see how it goes.”
Managers – Paddy Madigan
Captain – Niall Costello
Key man – Liam Irwin (pictured below) – Won All-Irelands with Mayo at U21 and Minor, as well as playing senior. The forward was called up to the London panel this year.
One to watch – Eoin Flanagan – From St Johns in Sligo, the back has played Connacht Championship for both Sligo, helping them reach the final in 2015, and New York.
London SFC titles – N/A
Last London SFC title – N/A
2017 – Group stage
Players out – Aidan Campbell, Scott Conroy, Richie Dempsey (Parnells).
Players in – Liam Irwin (Breaffy, Mayo), Eoin Flanagan (Sligo, New York), Gareth Ryan (St Farnan’s, Sligo), Peter Witherow (Donegal, New York), Eoin Culligan (Kilmacud Crokes, Dublin).
North London Shamrocks manager Paddy Madigan: “Our focus is on our first game versus Round Towers – they’re a good a team. It’s important to get a good start and try and build some momentum.
“We’re not looking too far forward. We’re just concentrating on trying to get out of the group stage, and beyond that we know there’s going to be some very good teams left. You take your chances from there.”
Manager – Tommy Ryan
Captain – Brian Foody
Key man – Brian Foody – the full back brings an intensity to Parnells’ game and leads from the front. A very committed player and a team player. Former Derry star Eoin Bradley (pictured below), Gerard O’Kane and Michael Johnson are greats additions.
One to watch – Ryan Forde – the homegrown midfielder established himself in the senior team last year and helped Parnells come within seconds of lifting the Conway Cup. The emerging Josh Obahor and corner back Jason Maguire are two more young homegrown talents to keep an eye out for.
London SFC titles – 7
Last London SFC title – 1991
2017 – Relegation play-off winners
Players out – Seamus Stenson, Jamie Barry, Gearoid McCarthy, Sean O’Donnell, Jake Moran (injury), Martin Carroll (Tir Chonaill Gaels – pending).
Players in – Josh Obahor (Parnells Minors), Luke Horgan (Parnells Minors), Richie Dempsey (North London Shamrocks), Leigh Cunningham (Saul, Down), Patrick Oliver (Naomh Columba, Donegal), Eoin Bradley (Glenullin, Derry), Gerard O’Kane (Glenullin, Derry), Michael Johnson (St Joseph’s Antrim).
Parnells manager Tommy Ryan: “We’re under no illusions as to where we’re ranked at the minute. The first thing we need to do is strive to get out of the bottom two, and then see if we can scrape into the top four.
“But it’s going to be extremely difficult to get out of the group – we’ve got the two best teams in London.
“We have to bring as much to the table as we can and see how we progress. That’s all we can do.”
Manager – Michael Maher
Captain – Colin Dunne (pictured below) and Liam Feerick
Key man – Noel Maher – the goalkeeper is integral to the team, providing an attacking platform with his pinpoint kick-outs.
One to watch – Tomas Hill – The Tipperary man is excellent at finding scoring positions and can knock them over from distance. The former Tipp minor helped Moyle Rovers reach the county final in 2015 and 2016.
London SFC titles – 5
Last London SFC title – 1982
2017 – Semi-finalists
Players out – Ciaran O’Connor.
Players in – Ronan O’Boyle (Kingdom Kerry Gaels), Alan Dunne (Moindearg), John McKeever (Wolfe Tones, Armagh).
Round Towers manager Michael Maher: “Compared to last year we’ve been unlucky with injuries and unavailability, but the players have trained exceptionally well in the last four weeks of training.
“Confidence is very high and we’re sure the boys will give a campaign that reflects their true ability.”
Manager – Mort Reidy
Captain – Danny Ryan
Key man – Adrian Moyles (pictured below) – “When Moyles plays well, Kiernans play well” says Reidy. The experienced London inter-county player captained Kiernans to a first-ever title in 2016. Has a cultured left boot and can put up big scores.
One to watch – Barry Tully – made his senior Cavan debut in 2016 having captained Kingscourt to a senior Cavan title the year before. The half forward always does the right thing with the ball and Kiernans are expecting a big championship from him.
London SFC titles – 1
Last London SFC title – 2016
2017 – Semi-finalists
Players out – Michael Callery, Patrick Begley (injury), Ian McGough (injury).
Players in – Barry Tully (Kingscourt, Cavan), David Carribine (Garryowen), Brian Routledge (Garryowen), Dara Quinn (Moy Davitts (Mayo), Greg Lyons.
St Kiernans manager Mort Reidy: “We couldn’t really afford to lose a scoring forward in Callery, but we’ve some very good lads coming through the ranks in Frazer Lennon, Rhys Lennon, Ciaran Healy and Michael Keohane.
“We’ve been very unfortunate to lose Patrick and Ian, two key defenders, but we have a good big squad.
“We’re expecting a big battle from Cuchulainns in the first game – they come in with nothing to lose. That first game is key, you don’t want to lose it. We won’t be taking anyone in our group for granted.”
Manager – Paul Coggins
Captain – Mark Gottsche
Key man – Liam Gavaghan (pictured) – The London captain’s resilience and will to win have made him a natural leader. A proven man for the big occasion and a game changer.
One to watch – Ryan Elliott – Was playing junior for TCG in 2017, but the corner forward forced his way into the London team this year. He put in a succession of impressive displays and he finished with 1-9.
London SFC titles – 16
Last London SFC title – 2015
2017 – Runners up
Players out – N/A
Players in – Eamon McConville (St Bronaghs, Down), Brian Mullan (Erne Gaels, Fermanagh), Liam Monaghan (Belmullet, Mayo), Matthew Moynihan – Spa (Kerry), Eoin Murray (Garryowen), Martin Carroll (Parnells – pending), Matt Killeen (St Clarets), Sean Killeen (St Clarets), Clive Mills (Harlesden Harps), Brendan McGarvey (Dungloe, Donegal).
Tir Chonaill Gaels manager Paul Coggins: “We’re prepared as best we can. We’ve played very well during the season so far and we’ve won the three cups that were available to win.
“Winning cups is always good, but championship is a whole new kettle of fish. Our full focus is on the Kingdom, and then we’ll focus on Fulham Irish and then Parnells. We’re not looking any further than that.
“We go in with confidence, but we also go in with a knowledge that we are not the champions. Fulham Irish are. It’s up to us to try and regain that trophy. But there’s a long way to go before you’d start talking about that.”