By Damian Dolan
They’ll be no divided loyalties for London forward and Galway-native Mark Gottsche come throw-in at McGovern Park on Sunday. But then he has been here before.
The Oranmore-Maree clubman represented the Tribesmen at U21 and senior before transferring his allegiance to London’s cause in 2011.
In 2014, he was in the London team which lost 3-17 to 0-7 to Galway at Ruislip. It was the first time he’d played against his home county.
“It is a unique occasion, there’s more family over and you meet people that you know from back home, but once the ball is thrown up it’s just another game,” Gottsche told the Irish World.
“You focus on the game in hand, rather than who you’re playing.”
Five years ago, Gottsche headed a six-strong Galway contingent in the London camp, which included Paul Geraghty, Damien Dunleavy, Eoin O’Neill and goalkeeper Adrian Faherty. Faherty and Dunleavy had both lined out for Galway against London in 2009. This time, he’s the only Galway voice.
But the Exiles – Connacht runners up the previous year – were no match for Alan Mulholland’s Galway in 2014.
Michael Martin hit 1-2 after only six minutes and they led by 1-9 to 0-2 at half-time, with Faherty pointing two injury-time frees for the hosts, when it seemed like they might end the half scoreless.
“It’s not a great memory; we were asked to go to the heights of the year before, but we didn’t put in anywhere near the performance that we were capable of,” said Gottsche.
“Galway were well-prepared, they’d done their homework on us and came out all guns firing. They blitzed us in the early part of the game.
“We weren’t used to that level of pressure and made mistakes, which they then punished.”
Gottsche made his London debut in 2011 – part of the team that took James Horan’s Mayo to extra-time – and was man of the match two years later as the Exiles stunned Sligo at Ruislip, before beating Leitrim to reach the Connacht final.
By the time Galway came to town, London’s progress under Paul Coggins meant no one was taking them for granted.
“Any team coming to Ruislip in 2014 knew that they were going to have to be at the top of their game,” said Gottsche.
“We’d earned the right to have a bit of confidence, based on those previous three years, and we had expectations that we could put in a performance. Looking back, it’s hard to say why we didn’t.”
Gottsche knows better than anyone the size of the challenge facing the Exiles on Sunday, and he’s an admirer of the job being done by manager Kevin Walsh.
“They had a successful U21 team two years ago and got to the All-Ireland final. The likes of John Daly and Seán Andy Ó Ceallaigh were on that team,” he said.
“Peter Cooke in midfield is a good young player and Ciarán Duggan is another, and then you still have the experience of Gareth Bradshaw and Tom Flynn.
“They’ve a nice mix of young exciting and experienced players at the minute.”
Galway 3-17 London 0-7
Connacht SFC Quarter-Final
Sunday 25th May, 2014
GALWAY: Manus Breathnach; Donal O’Neill, Finian Hanley, Johnny Duane; Gareth Bradshaw, Gary O’Donnell, Paul Varley; Fiontán Ó Curraoin, Thomas Flynn; Michael Lundy (0-1), Shane Walsh (1-6, 0-1 ’45’, 0-2f), James Kavanagh; Michael Martin (1-3, 0-1f), Eddie Hoare (0-3), Danny Cummins (1-3).
Subs used: Greg Higgins for Ó Curraoin (47 mins), Adrian Varley (0-1) for Martin, Damien Comer for Lundy (both 52), John O’Brien for Flynn (58), Cathal Mulryan for Bradshaw (61), Eoin Concannon for Hoare (68).
LONDON: Adrian Faherty (0-3, 0-3f); Philip Butler, Stephen Curran, Donnacha McCarthy; Seamus Hannon, Tony Gaughan, Michael Walsh; Mark Gottsche, Paul Geraghty; Martin Carroll, Damien Dunleavy, Greg Crowley; Eoin O’Neill, Cathal O’Neill, Joe Feeney (0-1).
Subs used: Brian Collins for Gaughan (32-35 mins, blood sub), Brian Collins for McCarthy (half-time), Lorcan Mulvey (0-3, 0-2f) for C O’Neill (half-time), Marcus Miskelly for E O’Neill (47), Shane Mulligan for Carroll (62), Lloyd Colfer for Feeney (63), Barry Mitchell for Walsh (67).
Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford).