British Army to field GAA team in London Junior Championship
Last Updated: 16/09/15 10:42am
The Irish Guards have become the first British Army regiment to be allowed to compete in Gaelic Games.
The new club, going under the name Garda Eireannach, will take to the field next year in the London Junior Football Championship after being narrowly cleared to join the GAA.
A vote on the application ended tied at a London County Board meeting on Monday night, with chairman Noel O'Sullivan using his casting ballot to accept the new club after a presentation by Irish Guards Sergeant Ken Fox.
Fifteen players have already put their names down to play, including some former minor and U21 players, and soldiers from Fiji and South Africa.
Part of the Irish Guards application to join the GAA's amateur sporting ranks referenced how the Fijians wanted to play a "strong, physical game that would suit them".
A spokesman for the British Army said: "The Armed Forces have a strong sporting background and the Irish Guards are no exception.
"With a strong link to Ireland there is no doubt that there are some highly capable GAA players in the ranks keen to show their prowess at competition level."
Very simply for me I can see both sides. I can appreciate the way people feel. But we have to move forward, don't dwell on the past.
London chairman Noel O'Sullivan
The regiment, whose Colonel-in-Chief is the Duke of Cambridge, applied to join the association several months ago.
The ban on members of the British armed forces and police from joining the GAA and playing Gaelic sports was lifted 14 years ago when the controversial Rule 21 was deleted following long and divisive debates in Ireland.
"Very simply for me I can see both sides. I can appreciate the way people feel," said O'Sullivan. "But we have to move forward, don't dwell on the past."
The new club will not be restricted to soldiers or past members of the regiment but open to anyone living in areas surrounding their new base in Hounslow Cavalry Barracks, west London.
They will initially play Gaelic football and are said to be considering offering hurling to members in the future.
The Metropolitan Police previously competed in London under the name Hendon Gaels.
Coggins steps down
Meanwhile, Paul Coggins has stepped down as London football manager after five years in charge.
The Roscommon native led the Exiles to their first championship win in 34 years when they beat Fermanagh in the 2011 Qualifiers, and made further history in 2013 when they defeated Sligo and Leitrim to reach the Connacht final for the first time.
Coggins said in a statement: "After a lot of thought and having met with the main officers it is with regret and a heavy heart I have decided not to put my name forward for the coming season for the post of London county senior football manager.
While there were many walls put up in front of us, with the great support I received from the clubs we kept knocking them down and will continue to do so I'm sure.
"I would like to thank so many people individually but at this time I firstly want to thank the London County Committee and London clubs for giving me the huge honour for the past five years of being the county manager and it always was a honour to be given the job.
"I have enjoyed it hugely. We gave it everything we had and I am sure that will continue in the future. I urge the County Committee to continue working to make our county teams as well prepared as possible.
"We are a competitive county and the work put in to achieve that needs to continue, with the County Committee playing a key role in helping to make that happen.
"I sincerely wish to thank all the clubs in London who have backed me 100 per cent since I became manager and while there were many walls put up in front of us, with the great support I received from the clubs we kept knocking them down and will continue to do so I'm sure.
"Finally, a huge thanks to my wife Ann, who has backed me over the past five years and longer, she has been the main reason I was able to do what I love doing."