Parnells and Garryowen will go toe-to-toe for the London intermediate football championship this Sunday at McGovern Park (4pm).
Parnells were too strong for Harlesden Harps overcoming them by 2-15 to 1-8 in their semi-final, while Garryowen edged St Claret’s by 1-11 to 1-9 to book their final place.
Sunday’s showdown will see Parnells aiming to restore their senior status having been relegated in 2019, while Garryowen will be looking for their first intermediate championship since 2015.
Speaking to the Irish World, Finbarr ‘Dick’ Daly of Garryowen said that while Parnells would be the favourites, his team will go into this match quietly confident.
Parnells’ Tony Griffin disagreed saying it was 50/50 and that his team will be taking nothing for granted, despite their big semi-final win.
“We just take it one game at a time,” said Griffin, who trained St Kiernan’s to an intermediate title in 2009.
“We’re here now and we’ve got to enjoy the moment, and grasp it. That’s the important thing; grasp it because you never know what might happen next year.
“We have just got to cease the occasion and get over the line.”
Daly has been involved with Garryowen on and off for 30 plus years. Having assisted last year, he took full charge of the team for this campaign.
He believes Parnells should be favourites in this final, but says his team go into the game with a quiet confidence and are comfortable with being the underdogs.
“We will take the tag of being underdogs,” he told The Irish World:
“I would hope we can give a good account of ourselves because Parnells will go into the game very strong favourites in my book, and in every neutral GAA man that’s out there every second weekend.
“Ninety per cent of them, and rightly so, would say that Parnells would be favourites going into the game.”
Last year, Garryowen lost out to Harlesden Harps in the semi-finals in a game that went to extra-time. They also went out at the same stage in 2018, at Neasden’s hands.
“We’ve been a long time in the doldrums. We sort of ‘hit the crossbar’ last year against Harlesden Harps, so it’s progress to get to a final.
“Parnells put up a massive score against Harlesden Harps and they’ll be a really, really strong favourites against us, but the character we showed against Claret’s, who are a good side, I think might stand to us.
“We have more than a fighting chance, let’s put it like that.”
Garryowen overcame St Claret’s by 1-11 to 1-9 in their semi-final – a game that could have gone either way.
“To be honest, we probably were a little bit short over the course of the hour, and Claret’s probably played a lot of the better football, but we got the result.”
The game turned when London county footballer Oladimeji Olajubu burst through to goal with a good finish.
“He’s promised and promised and promised,” said Daly.
“He’s probably one of the best athletes playing Gaelic football in London. Regardless of his lacking in football (grounding), he makes up for it in athleticism.”
Olajubu played county football with London this year and Daly believes Garryowen have more players who could make the breakthrough.
“Going forward we would have one or two players that are certainly good enough,” he said.
“Aiden McGuire’s a county footballer (Longford) and I’d love to see him playing corner forward for London seniors, because he is a serious player.
“Our centre back is very good from Tyrone, Elon Byrne.”
From Kilmichael in Cork, Daly played for London for six years in the ‘80s and ‘90s winning a McGrath Cup medal in 1988 when they beat Waterford at Ruislip. Still the only piece of senior silverware won by London’s footballers.
“I’ve played against Parnells myself in senior finals, I’ve been through all of this,” he said.
Senior champions in 1956, 1958, 1969, 1972 and 1980, Garryowen – like Parnells – is a club with “a lot of tradition”, as Daly reminds.
The 1980 final win came against Parnells, while they were also All-Britain champions in 1970 when they defeated Hertfordshire’s Glen Rovers in the final.
And Olajubu is just the latest Garryowen player to tog out for London – keeping a fine tradition going.
The club was represented on the London team that famously beat Leitrim in ’77, and was instrumental to the Exiles’ three-in-a-row junior All-Ireland success of 1969-71.
It’s a history to be proud of – and Daly’s team could be set to write a new chapter.
But Garryowen have lost to Parnells twice this year including a heavy defeat of 5-14 to 0-3 at the start of the year.
“They absolutely hammered us in a league game in Goodmayes but having said that, we know we’ve got to match them man-for-man,” said Daly.
“I don’t think we’d be looking so much at tactics against them, I just feel we need to go toe-to-toe with them.”
Garryowen making a final is more impressive when you consider they lost some big players from last year like Cian Doyle and Alan Kyne, who transferred to Tir Chonaill Gaels.
“For clubs like ourselves, we can’t be a picking ground for any of the bigger clubs. And it has happened so many times over the years,” says Daly.
“Alan Kyne was a huge player for us, Cian Doyle was a serious loss [too].”
In spite of this, Daly says the group is getting stronger helped by the current success they’re having.
“We think we have more of a balance now. Our club is very strong and it’s getting stronger. We’ve transferred two players (in) this week,” he said.
“They probably won’t start but we’ve transferred two potential county players because success breeds success.”
It was two Parnells veterans, in former county footballer Ryan Forde and Connor Spinks, who found the net for Parnells in their semi-final win, but manager Griffin is reluctant to heap too much praise on individuals when it was a team effort.
Reflecting on their win over Harlesden, Griffin said: “We were confident going into it.
“I just thought it was a very accomplished performance by all our team from the goalie all the way through the 18 players we used.
“I thought everyone won their individual battles. It was all about the team performance. And that’s the way we’ve been all year.
“I don’t think we have any stars. We’re a very balanced team. We’re a very young team with an average age of about 23.
“We have 12 that came through our underage system so we were very confident because of our youth and pace that we would get over the line.”
He adds: “But Garryowen will be a different kettle of fish. They never give up. They’ve got some very good players.
“Their forwards are dangerous. Aiden Maguire is a very good player and the young lad from Dublin Jordan (Dargan-Akiwumi) has serious pace.
“You can’t rule out the Corcorans. They’ve been with them a long time.
“They’re a force to be reckoned with. They’re not in the final for nothing. We always knew that they were dogged, and they wouldn’t give up.”
Parnells were relegated from senior in 2019 when they gave Kingdom Kerry Gaels a walkover in their relegation play-off.
“Parnells were at rock bottom in 2019. But we knew that our underage successes were going to come through,” said Griffin.
“Last year, I would say we had 13 homegrown players on our starting 15. No one else would have 13 homegrown players on their first team.”
Connor Spinks, Eoghan Reilly, Ryan Forde, Darragh Griffin and Joshua Obahor represented Parnells on London’s successful junior team this year.
Griffin, from Ballydonoghue in Co. Kerry, has been in London since 1993.
Manager of the Parnells ‘first team’ since 2020 – the club fielded at intermediate and junior up until this year – he also played a role in coaching many of those who have come through the ranks as he was coaching underage beforehand.
“We’re a club that thrives on our underage,” he said.
“We know we’ve probably got four or five lads next year that will come straight in and will be pushing for places on the team here as well.”
Parnells won the last of their seven senior titles in ’91, when they beat Garryowen in the final. But you have to go back to 2011 and 2010 for the last time they reached the senior decider.
Their other senior championships came in 1962, 1966, 1971, 1979, 1981 and 1988, during which time they were one of the heavyweights of London and British football.
Indeed, provincial titles came their way in 1967, 1968, 1984 and 1991 – and they were runners up in 1972, 1982 and 1988.
“Parnells are a senior club but haven’t won the championship since 1991 so we have a long way to go,” adds Griffin.
“But we’re not even thinking about that for now. We’re just thinking about the Garryowen game on Sunday and what will be will be.
“To get up senior is what we want, but Garryowen will be a tough battle.”
Involved with Parnells for 12 years now, Griffin says it’s a family club and this is evident in two of his sons playing in their semi-final against Harlesden Harps – Darragh started at centre forward with Ciaran coming on. Both scored a point.
Another son of Tony’s, Conor, is playing with the club’s U17s.
“We’re a family club; I would say that we’re a parish within London,” he said.
“The boys are not just football colleagues, they’re friends, they’re mates. And I think that will go on for a long time.
“This is just the start – we want to move on. We want to kick on but to do that we need to win next Sunday.
“That’s the aim; our goal at the start of our season has been to win the intermediate championship and get out of Division 3.”
Parnells still gave a Division 3 final to look forward to against Wandsworth Gaels.
“So there’s nothing achieved. Our season is over the next few weeks,” he continued.
“It’s 50/50 and it’s all on the day. You never know what could happen.”
Garryowen versus Parnells in a county final at Ruislip is a throwback to decades gone by – and whatever the outcome on Sunday, one of the county’s ‘big names’ will have a seat at the top table once again.