Paul Coggins remains a believer
By Cian O’Connell
Throughout the past decade Tír Chonaill Gaels have invested significant time and energy in nurturing homegrown talent in London.
That is why this is a particularly exciting time for the progressive club, who face Roscommon standard bearers Pádraig Pearses at McGovern Park, Ruislip in a Connacht SFC Semi-Final on Sunday.
On the sideline Paul Coggins remains as passionate about Gaelic Football as ever ensuring TCG are in capable hands.
Coggins is adamant about how important that TCG continue to produce and craft their own players for the future.
“We won the London Junior last year, that was an all London born team,” Coggins explains. “They went up to Intermediate this year and they got to the Intermediate Championship final.
“Fergal Cunningham, who is a selector with me on the senior team, he is the manager. I helped him out, we just worked together.
“They played very well and we have maybe more than half a dozen, seven or eight of those lads, in the senior squad minimum. They have joined the senior squad so it is all positive there.”
The past two London senior managers, Coggins and Ciarán Deely sought to integrate London born players into the inter-county set-up.
Now Michael Maher, born in London, is in charge of the Exiles with Coggins acknowledging that clubs are making strides.
“Absolutely, I would say it is very much on the positive side,” Coggins states. “You have a lot of good coaching being done at all of the underage levels.
“They are doing very well in the Féile competitions, they are doing what a lot of other counties do. At club level, the way emigration has gone with it slowing down, it is the only way clubs are going to survive over here. This year at senior level there were a few clubs struggling.
“Clubs know themselves that they have to look at it in a different way. We are one club that has always done that, we've always put a lot into our underage development. A lot of clubs are doing the same thing.
“Parnells put in a Junior team, we previously were the only club with an all London born team. Parnells did it this year and St Kiernan's did it and they played very well. It is definite, it is not just pretend stuff now.
“There is a definite fresh impetus, a lot of really good players are coming through from clubs. It is only very positive for the future of London football.”
For the second year Tír Chonaill Gaels enter the Connacht race rather than the All Ireland Quarter-Final stage.
Coggins believes this is a real boost for whoever emerges from a competitive London Championship. “Absolutely,” Coggins replies. “We had a good hard game a week after the Championship final against Neasden Gaels in the League final to follow up.
“We had a nice break then last weekend, we had a couple of injuries in the final, but we've got that bit of time to get them sorted. You don't have the travel issues.
“Last year we had to get looking at travelling the week after the county final win. That can all add to things. This year we haven't got that. It used to be that we would end up playing the Ulster champions or the Connacht champions or the Munster champions.
“I played in many of those games and we did very, very well. A lot of London clubs did well, but that was very difficult. You were playing the actual champions. Pearses could be the champions that we will be playing, we don't know.
“At the moment that isn't the case. So I think it is a good thing for the London clubs. It gives the London clubs an opportunity to play on a more level playing field which is very good by the GAA. There will be no excuses. You have everything in the right position to give yourself the best chance possible.”
The 2019 edition of the London Senior Championship proved to be extremely tight and tense in the closing rounds with Tír Chonaill Gaels eventually remaining perched on the summit.
“It was a very, very competitive Championship,” Coggins says. “Neasden looked very good to be honest, they had Jamie Clarke, Caolan Mooney, (Connaire) Harrison, the O'Hares. They really had some good players and were playing very well, but in the semi-final Fulham Irish upped their game and they looked very good. They played very, very well. We just went along with our job quietly, but in a determined way this year.
“We have lost a few high profile players from the previous season, we have brought in London born junior players, who we had in the junior side which is going very well. That is the truth.
“We brought in a couple of new players from Ireland, but nothing outrageous, just good honest club players and mixed them up with what we had. The loss of Mark Gottsche and Killian Butler were big losses to take, but we played very well.
“We were strong as a team and as a unit which has brought us on very well. We showed that in the final. We were losing by six points at half-time, we came back to win by two.
“It was some performance, it really was. The Championship was very tough and close, it was a very good London Championship.”
Coggins appreciation and desire for the game endures. Regardless of the team or the level Coggins derives pleasure from trying to improve players.
“I love it, I enjoy it very much,” acknowledges the proud Roscommon native. “I love being part of the whole coaching set-up, but I have a great management team. I always say that. I really have.
“I couldn't do without them, we are a well set up club. We put things in place so the players are facilitated to do their thing.
“I have a very serious management team. People like Tony Murphy, who worked with me with London, he is on board with Tir Chonaill Gaels. Davy Byrne, he played with Neasden for many years, so did Fergal Cunningham. Jenny Coady a girl from Waterford she is helping out with stats and performance.”
Ultimately Coggins wants Tír Chonaill Gaels to demonstrate their ability to a wider audience. “We have a really good set-up, we have trained hard since the beginning of the year,” Coggins continues. “You put it in, and at the moment we are getting the results and success.
“We do want to make a mark further afield than London. That is our aim. There is no point pretending it is not. That is what we are trying to do. We wouldn't be doing it otherwise. I'm not going to hide behind a bush to pretend otherwise. So we will be giving it a really big effort again.
“If we perform to the highest level that we are capable of performing, we will be there or thereabouts next Sunday, I have no doubts.”