By Damian Dolan
London GAA Honorary President Bill Reilly will be the proudest man at McGovern Park, Ruislip, on Sunday, when his native Louth face London in the first round of the All Ireland qualifiers.
A huge supporter of the GAA, both in London and his native Louth, Bill couldn’t have asked for a better draw, although he’s staying tight-lipped as to which side he’ll be rooting for on the day.
“It’s going to be a good day for me – a proud day. And I’ll be right in the middle of it,” Bill told the Irish World.
“I’m really looking forward to it – I can’t lose either way. Who will I be supporting? I’m going to stay schtum on that one.”
Well-known and respected in London GAA circles, in December 2016 Bill became the first-ever Louth-born President of the London County Board.
As well as being Chairperson of London’s oldest surviving club, Brothers Pearse, he is also one of the patrons of the new county ground at Ruislip, McGovern Park.
Love for Louth
However, he’s never lost his love for Louth GAA. Originally from Dromiskin, he played senior level in Louth for the Dromiskin Unknowns, and lined up against members of Louth’s All Ireland winning team of 1957 – the last time the Wee County lifted the Sam Maguire.
In his final match in 1958 before leaving for England when he was 22, he went up against one of the stars of that Louth team, Jimmy McDonnell, who was playing for local rivals Darver Volunteers in the first round of the Louth SFC.
A big supporter of the GAA in Louth, he sponsors St Josephs GAA club Dromiskin (formed when the Unknowns and the Darver Volunteers were merged to form one club), and without fail gets back to watch the county team several times a year.
Most recently, he was at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise for Louth’s Leinster first round fixture with Carlow.
Although the sides have met in the National League, as recent as February 2016, and in junior All Irelands finals in the 1930s, “it’s opportune” admits Bill that London GAA has a Louth man as its president for the sides’ first senior championship meeting since 1913.
— the Irish World (@theirishworld) May 29, 2018
“I think it will be a very even contest. Although Louth were beaten by Carlow, they’re a very decent team. Carlow are one of the most improved teams and it was no shame to be beaten by them,” said Bill.
“London will feel they have a decent chance – it’s a very open game. Louth will be favourites, but I’d only expect there to be a point or two in it.”
It should be some occasion and for none more so than London’s Honorary President, and proud Louth man, Bill Reilly. No one would begrudge him it.