By Damian Dolan
Dynamic Down half back Caolan Mooney is the latest big name to join Neasden Gaels’ bid to become London champions for the first time since 2010.
Mooney’s goal nearly set the Mournemen on their way to a shock qualifier win over Mayo in Newry last Saturday, only for James Horan’s side to prevail by five points.
But his goal is a taste of what Neasden supporters can expect this summer, and he’s due to join up with his new teammates at the end of next week.
His capture comes hot on the heels of Armagh star Jamie Clarke committing to the ambitious London club, as revealed by the Irish World.
“He’s a very good player; like Jamie (Clarke) he’s going to have a very big impact on the London scene this year,” Neasden Gaels chairman Frank Kane told the Irish World.
“I don’t think anyone in London will be able to touch him for speed, ability and awareness on the pitch. But he also cares about the club and what we’re trying to do.
“London football is going to be an exciting place to be involved in this summer.”
The additions of Mooney and Clarke are part of the club’s three-year plan to get itself “back up there” with the likes of Paul Coggins’ Tir Chonaill Gaels and Owen Mulligan’s Fulham Irish.
Winning last year’s intermediate championship was “step one” – a feat achieved with the help of Down star Connaire Harrison.
But Kane is keen to stress that it’s not all about the “three big names” – it’s about the “longevity” of the club.
As well as strengthening its selectors and management team – 2012 Donegal All-Ireland winner Adrian Hanlon is on board – past members, who’d left the club, have been getting back involved. That’s an even “bigger thing” for Kane.
“Because we’ve made a statement as a club, we’ve people ringing us now wanting to pledge to us, and that’s something I’m very proud of,” he said.
“I’m proud personally to bring the likes of Caolan Mooney and Jamie Clarke to Neasden Gaels, and retain Connaire Harrison. But for the club, it’s more important to develop it once again.”
A former Down Minor star, Mooney broke into the senior team in 2011 and helped the Mournemen reach that year’s Ulster final, where they lost to Tyrone despite Mooney contributing 0-3 from play.
That year he also reached an Ulster IFC final with Rostrevor, only to lose out to Tyrone’s Moy by 0-9 to 0-8. Mooney top scored for Rostrevor with 0-4 (3f).
He moved to Australia at the end of 2011 to play AFC for Collingwood, but his three years brought just six appearances and he returned to Down and Rostrevor in 2014.