By Damian Dolan
Having lived in the shadow of Dunedin Connolly’s for too long, Glasgow Gaels are relishing the chance to finally step out into the sunlight and make their mark, even if it’s all a bit new.
As captain David Comiskey points out, the Glasgow lads aren’t used to still be playing football as late as October and November. That’s been the ownership of their Edinburgh rivals’ in recent times.
Until this year, that is.
Glasgow’s sensational victory over Connolly’s in the Scotland senior final saw the club lift the Charles Quinn memorial trophy for the first time in 13 years, and for only the third time in its history.
Despite conceding two goals in the opening 15 minutes, Glasgow battled back to win by four points. Comiskey was man of the match.
In previous years they’d have lost from such an early double set back, but this year was different. There was a collective ‘right, we’ll just get on with it’ from those in red and white.
Victory opened the door to a third crack at provincial. The club’s previous two forays into the All-Britain saw it knocked out at the semi-final stage in 2006 (at the hands of eventual winners Fulham Irish) and 2002, by runners up Sean McDermotts.
It’s all been a welcome change of pace, but it’s also an opportunity the club is determined not to let slip by.
The chance is there for this crop of Glasgow players to achieve something that none before them were able to – win an All-Britain title.
“We’re excited; this is big for the club and this group of players,” Comiskey told the Irish World.
“It’s totally unchartered territory, but there’s a sense that you want to try and grasp it while it’s there. We’re so used to living off scraps and not getting this far.
“You have to try and seize it, because you don’t know when you’ll get another chance.”
Winning Scotland was a huge achievement for the club, especially having lost out to Connolly’s in the previous four finals.
It would have been easy for Jimmy Treacy and Damien McGovern’s (joint managers) team to have rested on its laurels and basked in the accomplishment.
“We spent many years saying ‘next year, we’ll beat them next year’. This year we finally made it over the line,” said Comiskey, who comes from Tullysaran in Co Armagh.
Why 2019? Comiskey is hard pushed to single out one defining reason, but instead attributes it to a number of factors – a consistency in the squad over the last two years and players staying injury free being two.
“There was no miracle formula, just hard work. Everyone’s just got to know each other that bit better and things started to click,” he said.
Despite being in his third year, he regards himself as “new” to the club. There are others who’ve been around longer and who’ve probably felt the “shadow” of Dunedin more.
Comiskey, in his first year as captain, prefers to take the positive from those ‘nearly’ years. The onus was always on Glasgow to close the gap.
“It’s always tough losing, but whoever sets the standards makes the other teams better, and we’ve probably benefited. We needed to improve to get to that level,” he said.
While their opponents on Sunday, Thomas McCurtains, were embroiled in a play-off in London for the right to enter the All-Britain, and then a provincial quarter-final, Glasgow were “doing their own thing” having been handed a ‘bye’ into the semi-finals.
After the high of Dunedin it may have been beneficial – it gave the club the chance for their title win to sink in, to celebrate and then to refocus.
After a couple of training sessions off, though, lads were soon “chomping at the bit” to get back out there again, says Cormiskey.
“It was good to see because we’re not used to playing football this time of year,” he said.
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— Glasgow Gaels (@glasgowgaels) November 6, 2019
“You could sense there was a real energy – lads were delighted to still be playing and to have training to go to.
“It’s hard to know if we’d have been ready for a quarter-final. The break did reenergise us.”
They’re certainly battle hardened again now after a “hard fought” semi-final with Gloucestershire champions St Jude’s, who saw off Hertfordshire’s Eire Og in their quarter-final.
It was a game which “took a lot” out of them says Cormiskey, but one they needed.
“It was a fear going into the St Jude’s game. I would have preferred to have had games to build momentum, but that’s just the way the cards fell,” said Cormiskey, who led his side to a 1-12 to 1-9 win over St Jude’s.
“Maybe it was a bit of rustiness or the fact that it was an All-Britain semi-final, but it took us a while to get into our flow. They were very physical and a good side,” he said.
— Glasgow Gaels (@glasgowgaels) November 3, 2019
The Gaels led 0-6 to 0-3 at half-time before pulling away in the second half. Substitute Ryan Slavin with the crucial goal, while Richard Stevenson finished with nine points (4f).
A late St Jude’s goal made for a nervy final two minutes.
The journey home took seven and a half hours, but that’s “just what you have to do if you want to be British champions” says Cormiskey.
Sights now are fully set on winning a historic British title, but not just for this current crop of Glasgow players.
He added: “There’s a pride there that a lot of people have gone before us and didn’t quite make it. You’re doing it for them.
“That’s the thing about clubs outside of Ireland, people come and go but they’re always Gaels and they keep in touch and support from afar. That’s who you want to do it for.”