David Hennessy talks to Philip Butler, the London-born veteran of London’s Connacht final campaign season of 2013 about ambitions to reach that stage once again and wearing number three this year
Philip Butler was just a 20-year-old student when he played his part in Paul Coggins’ team’s march to their first Connnacht final in 2013. Although he didn’t play in the Sligo opener, Butler has not missed a championship game for the Exiles since then. You would also have to go back to 2013 for the last time he sat out a league game, playing for London in all of their 2014 and 2015 campaigns. Paul Coggins has recognised Butler’s dedication, trusting him with the number 3 shirt for this campaign.
“It’s obviously been the goal,” Butler tells The Irish World ahead of a London training session last week. “Since I came in, I wanted to play number three so it’s just great now I’m finally doing it at county level. I’m a proud man. I’m not fully over it.”
Philip and the whole back put in strong performances against Roscommon in London’s Connacht quarter-final.
“I was pretty happy with how we defended to be honest.”
Butler kept Roscommon full forward Senan Kilbride under control, he got no scores. However, London were 0-8 to 0-2 with little over 20 minutes played and for all London’s efforts, the Connacht team would maintain this cushion to the end.
“It probably wasn’t the greatest start to be honest. We slipped up straight away, didn’t we? We never came back from that and then the goal probably killed us off really.
“I think there were a few mistakes here and there but I don’t think we’re too far away to be honest. It’s positive.
“There’s a few little things that hopefully we’ll tweak over the next couple of weeks and that will set us up for Cavan then.
“Hopefully if we improve from Roscommon, then we should get the right side this time. We’re a bit more confident as well. We played Cavan a few weeks ago so we know what we’re facing.”
Cavan will also know what they are facing as Paul Coggins’ former selector and Philip’s former coach at Tir Chonaill Gaels Kevin Downes is now a selector for the Lake County: “He’s obviously a great coach so they’ll be ready for us, probably know all the ins and outs but hopefully we’ll do them on the day.”
How important will home advantage and playing in front of a home crowd be on the day? “You don’t really notice it (the crowd) to be honest when you’re playing, whether they’re with you or against you. You don’t feel it. I don’t anyway. It’s probably no different to playing a club league game.”
Mark Gottsche described an ironic cheer when London scored against Galway in their 2014 Connacht quarter-final. Although London were beaten by 19 points, the London midfielder talked about how it hurt that fans could have already forgotten the 2013 exploits. Butler remembers this instantly when it is mentioned: “Stuff like that (hurts) but you don’t really notice it that much. If you’re playing that bad, you probably do but not really.
“It’s a lot easier. Last year we went all the way to Limerick, got there probably midnight. It makes a massive difference to be able to stay at home, get a good sleep Friday.”
Reflecting on the 2013 season that was so historic, is the spirit of it still there for these London lads? “It’s a little bit forgotten about to be honest but you always want to reach that goal again, have another crack at it. The aim every year is to get to a Connacht final and see how we do from there. Now, it’s just to get August now hopefully beating Cavan and working our way forward from that.”
In 2013 Philip was the only London-born player lining out for Paul Coggins’ team. Now he is joined in the starting 15 by Adrian Moyles while Alfie McNulty and Shane Buckley, who made his debut against Roscommon, are also in the wider squad.
Asked if he feels he’s led the way here at all, Philip’s modest: “I wouldn’t say that. Adrian did it before me and we had Liam Gavigan. I wouldn’t say leading the way but obviously very proud to be representing the county and the club.
“It’s good. That year, it was only me so it seems like progress. There was a great minor team that my brother was involved in with Shane and Alfie so I’d say there would be a few more from there.”
Raised in Greenford where his club, Tir Chonaill Gaels, is also based, Philip was born to a Cork mother and a father who also has Cork connections. There is now another member of the family to watch out for. Killian, Philip’s brother, scored two goals in a Tipperary Cup semi-final for Tir Chonaill Gaels recently.
Former Roscommon goalkeeper Shane Curran caused controversy recently when he suggested London didn’t deserve to be in the championship on the Sunday Game.
Asked if the London panel have paid any attention to this, Philip says: “Not really. As Alfie (McNulty) said, ‘who’s he?’”
Adrian Moyles, who is beside Philip, adds: “He’s just trying to make a name for himself. Get another shift on the Sunday game.”
“Good luck to him,” Philip concludes.
Is there ever any slagging in the dressing room about being London-born? “Yeah, if something goes wrong in training,” Philip says laughing with Adrian once again.