London gets new GAA 'county stadium'

The new stand at McGovern Park at Ruislip in London Image copyright London GAA
Image caption The new stand at McGovern Park at Ruislip in London

It is the classic Irish story - Noel Dunning moved to London 22 years ago to take over the running of his uncle's pub and has been there ever since.

Hailing from the County Roscommon side of Athlone, he took his love of Gaelic games with him and is a former manager and a current selector for London's Gaelic footballers.

Noel is also chairman of the Ruislip Development Committee, the group which drove the development of the Gaelic Athletic Association's (GAA) new stadium in the city.

McGovern Park will be officially opened on Sunday.

However, Noel refuses to take the credit, he said: "I'm chairman of a very good committee, guys who made sure it happened.

"I was fortunate to have guys on the committee with me, appointed by the London county board and Croke Park (GAA headquarters in Dublin), any obstacles that were in the way, they were soon shot down."

McGovern Park, in Ruislip in west London, will have an official capacity of 3,000.

The new ground cost £4.3m to build, £930,000 raised by the London GAA and the rest came from grant aid and a loan from GAA headquarters in Croke Park.

Noel believes the opening of the new ground is a very significant event for Gaelic games: "It's not just a boost for London GAA, it's a boost for the GAA in Britain.

Image copyright London GAA
Image caption McGovern Park cost £4.3m to build, much of it coming from voluntary donations

"Its the largest development undertaken by any GAA unit outside of Ireland.

"It's the same as any county ground at home, albeit on a smaller scale.

"It's a tremendous shot in the arm, it's something for younger players coming through the ranks in London to aspire to," he added.

Who plays Gaelic football for London?

All of the players on the London senior panel are Irish born or of Irish descent.

"It's a mixed bag," explained Noel, "We have five or six players involved who would be of Irish heritage".

"Our captain tomorrow is Liam Gavaghan, he's a London-born player.

"The rest would all be Irish guys who've moved over to London for work and college."

Official opening

London is treated by the GAA as an Irish county, with the UK's capital city competing in Connacht, Ireland's least populated province, in the football championship.

The ball will be thrown in for McGovern Park's first game at 15:30 BST on Sunday when home team London take on visitors Leitrim in the quarter final of the Connacht Gaelic Football Championship.

London has a long GAA history.

It played in three hurling and five football All Ireland finals in the early 1900s when the All-Ireland and All-Britain champions were paired in the final.

London won the hurling All-Ireland in 1901, defeating Cork by 1-5 to 0-4.

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