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London manager Ciaran Deely.
London manager Ciaran Deely.

Ciaran Deely: 'It still has a few unique challenges'


By Cian O'Connell

With a flair for travel, learning, and coaching Ciaran Deely is simply enjoying managing London footballers.

The former Wexford forward has forged an interesting career, and since starting as a selector under Paul Coggins in 2015, Deely has embraced the challenge of trying to help London be a competitive inter-county team.

Through the underage coaching work guided by Lloyd Colfer, London have put significant emphasis on developing homegrown players for most of the past decade.

The emergence of Philip Butler, Adrian Moyles, and new captain Liam Gavaghan offers hope for the future according to Deely. “Yeah, it does and it is something we have looked to promote as much as possible,” Deely admits to GAA.ie.

“We are delighted that this year that Liam Gavaghan is our captain, a homegrown player, who has played with TCG (Tir Chonaill Gaels). London is his county, he is born and bred in London. He wants to play for London, nobody else. That is a real positive.

“You really want to promote these players up, but it is not quite the same as in Ireland when you bring in a player at the age of 18 or 19 and you more or less know he will be with that squad for the next eight to 10 seasons. It can be more of a challenge with London.”

“It is still a challenge because Ciaran Healy made his Championship debut in the Qualifiers last year, aged 18. We think he has a huge future for London, but he has gone to University in Newcastle so now he is gone from the squad for this year. It still has a few unique challenges.

“You really want to promote these players up, but it is not quite the same as in Ireland when you bring in a player at the age of 18 or 19 and you more or less know he will be with that squad for the next eight to 10 seasons. It can be more of a challenge with London.”

That is what Deely has come to understand about London - there is always a hurdle needing to be cleared. Mark Gottsche, Dave McGreevy, Marty Carroll remain involved with London, who will be without a distinguished servant to the cause, Lorcan Mulvey, for the League.

Nearly every discussion at this time of year for those with an interest in London GAA matters centres on who will be available, but Deely is pleasantly surprised ahead of the 2017 campaign. "This year we have retained a lot of our players which is a little bit different than most years and the years I have been involved up until now.

“So the majority of the squad from last year are there, which is great. We have lost a couple, we have also brought in a number of new lads as well, we really have cast the net wide this year.

“We brought in a number of lads from last year's London Junior squad too, so we have lads from London Junior and Intermediate clubs. That was something we really wanted to do. We are very happy with that.”

Liam Gavaghan will captain London in 2017.
Liam Gavaghan will captain London in 2017.

Deely was impressed with how London’s second string performed in the All Britain Championship with Joe Coulter, a brother of former Down star Benny, drafted in as a selector at senior level.

“It was taken more seriously last year than it had been over the last number of years. We were very happy leading into this year, I was involved a little bit with them. Joe Coulter, Benny Coulter's brother, was a selector and a coach with that team.

“From my experience being around that team, I was very impressed with Joe so he is now in with us, with the senior squad as a selector. We are delighted to get his experience and knowledge involved. We have probably brought in about 12 of that squad, we are happy with that.”

As the Emerald GAA Grounds are being redeveloped London will play all seven of their Allianz Football League Division Four matches away from home, commencing with a trip to Ardmore in Waterford on Sunday.

“It can be difficult for lads to get to training because it is very busy on evenings in the Tube. Unless you've been involved or seen it at close quarters, I don't think a lot of people understand how difficult it is for London.”

“I think it is going to be a massive challenge first of all playing seven games away from home. Also the amount of travel, other teams don't quite realise when you are travelling over and back from London for a weekend. We are up very early Saturday morning and we are back late enough on Sunday night.

“Sometimes there can be delays and lads are up early going to work the next morning. Also the League is condensed slightly this year, we have seven games in 10 weekends so we are going to be busy with that. Because of that there will be a little bit more rotation around the panel so lads are going to get opportunities. It isn't going to be easy.

“In last year’s League we beat Waterford, but we'd love to go on to win two League games in a season or more. I do say to the players that any time London beats a team from Ireland, it should be a cause of celebration because we are at such a disadvantage over here as regards training facilities, funding, players coming and going that if we do beat a team, it is a big thing for us because it is difficult to do.

“It can be difficult for lads to get to training because it is very busy on evenings in the Tube. Unless you've been involved or seen it at close quarters, I don't think a lot of people understand how difficult it is for London.”

This May when the refurbishment work at Ruislip is completed London host Leitrim in the Connacht Senior Football Championship. Leitrim are the only other county in that province in Division Four so Deely accepts it is a different task than playing Mayo, who were the visitors in 206.

“Last season was different, we were playing against Mayo,” Deely acknowledges. “In some ways that was a fantastic event for London GAA. There was a big crowd at the game, it was a great day challenging against really, really top players.

Ciaran Deely watching London play Mayo during the 2016 Connacht SFC at Ruilsip.
Ciaran Deely watching London play Mayo during the 2016 Connacht SFC at Ruilsip.

“I'd prefer to be playing against teams in Division Four, Division Three, and maybe the lower half of Division Two - you can challenge in those games. Obviously coming into the Mayo game, you are trying to compete and limit them.

“We are really happy to be playing against Leitrim or Sligo or those type of teams, I think it will be very difficult. We don't have a great record against Leitrim at all, I think they are a team in Division Four that always play London very much with their eyes open.

“Whenever they come over to London they are very prepared, whereas some other teams aren't as well prepared coming into those games. We are really looking forward to it, Ruislip's Development will be open for that day, we hope, so it will be a good event.”

Deely, who previously worked full-time for QPR before a stint with Kerala Blasters in India, now is back operating two days a week for the London Championship outfit, a club with a storied Irish connection for the past five decades or so. The Head Sports Scientist at the Academy, Ross Bennett, is involved with the London GAA set-up.

“I'm back doing a bit of work with QPR in the sub elite Academy as well, two days a week. I keep in touch with all the gang, all the players and coaches there so it is great to see them do well, especially the Irish connection. It is great to see.”

Does Deely envisage staying in the UK capital long term? “It is difficult to know,” Deely responds. “There are a lot of opportunities in London as regards teams and professional sports.

“In Ireland there isn't as many, but the thing in London is that there are so many people in the Sports Science industry. It can be difficult for people to get on, but I always tend to take it year by year as regards where I am.”

The spell in India, where Deely got to know former Republic of Ireland international Terry Phelan, was a rewarding period. “I went to India for half a year so I'm open to new challenges,” Deely says. “It was good to see a different culture, we travelled all over India. We flew to all of the games and I got to work with some great professional soccer players.

“Peter Taylor was the gaffer, I went over with him, I got to know him through QPR and halfway through the season Terry Phelan took over as manager.

“I'm still in contact with Terry on a regular basis, we speak a lot and we struck up a really close bond over there. That was great. He is Head of the Academy Structure in Kerala Blasters, he does some work setting up Coaching Schools in Dubai also. He is always busy.”

The same could be stated about Deely, who came to prominence in Good Counsel New Ross under the guidance of former Wexford manager Aidan O’Brien. That is where sporting and coaching possibilities captured Deely’s attention. Two decades on his journey and thirst for knowledge continues.

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