The natives are not restless. They understand.
Tomorrow in Gaelic Park was to be Dylan Curran’s Championship debut, the culmination of years learning the game his Sligo father, Mike, had taught him and his brother in Yonkers.
This evening, Killian Butler had designs on wreaking havoc in the Roscommon full-back line, just as he had upset Galway’s in Ruislip last year. One of 13 English-born players in the London squad, his first-half goal had spooked Kevin Walsh’s side, before the Tribesmen won by four points.
Butler is 23, Curran 21 — both young enough to be able to write off this season, with, hopefully, many more ahead of them. They are also realistic enough to know that if the Championship does go ahead this year, their teams are unlikely to be a part of it.
“Everybody would still be looking forward to getting back playing inter-county, but I can’t see it happening this year,” says Butler.
“Clubs will probably have more of a chance of getting back.”
Curran is as philosophical, hoping that he will see some action with his club, St Barnabas, later in 2020. “Normally, we would have thousands of people in Gaelic Park — the place would be packed — so it’s unfortunate it’s not happening this year,” Curran says.
Football is on the backburner, as their cities contend with the savagery of the coronavirus. Curran’s trips outside are few and far between, but when he’s out, it is with a face mask, one of the temporary laws enforced by New York state governor, Andrew Cuomo, until May 15 at the earliest.
“I think he (Cuomo) has handled it well,” says Curran, an economics student in Purchase College, in Harrison, New York. “This is something no governor could have expected. This is a global pandemic, thousands of people are dying, and there’s so much pressure, but he’s handled it pretty well.”
Butler, a health-and-safety co-ordinator at O’Neill and Brennan Construction Recruitment, senses there isn’t as much satisfaction about the job done by UK prime minister, Boris Johnson.
“From what I’m hearing and seeing, people are frustrated that there are those not adhering to the lockdown rules. There’s a bit of frustration, too, that we acted a bit slowly compared to Ireland and other countries and we didn’t take the advice from the likes of Italy, who were saying we had to shut down sooner. But that’s the situation we’re in now and, on the site I’m working on, we’re trying to take as many of the guidelines into consideration as possible and adhere to them. Hopefully, the more people that do that, the quicker we get back, but sport has to wait right now,” Butler says.
Butler’s mother hails from Fairhill, St Vincent’s being the local club that he and his brother, Philip, have visited on their trips back to Cork. Philip was on the London team when they famously reached the Connacht final seven years ago.
“It was through my brother,” Butler says of his love for football. “He was going up to Tir Chonaill Gaels from the age of 12 or 13. My mum brought me up there then, because I think she had nobody to babysit me; my dad was working late, doing nights, and Phil wanted to go training. From there on, I haven’t really left TCG.”
With his father, Mike, coming from Rathaberna and mother, Annette, from Innisfree, Curran says he was “pretty much born into the game”. Twice, he has featured on native New York college teams that have played in Mallow and DCU on Sigerson Cup weekends, in the Corn na Mac Léinn (Division 3) competition.
“Gerry Fox, our (county) manager, asked Johnny McGeeney, the colleges trainer, to bring up whoever he thought was capable of playing into training and there are more native-borns than any other year — six or seven, compared to four last year. The number is only going one way. Even the World Games, in 2019, it was unbelievable to see both New York teams in the final. It just shows we’re on the come-up. We want to show people we can play,” Curran says.
Galway would have provided a stern test, but Curran was relishing the challenge.
The number of English-born players that now populate the London panel is well-known and as good as Roscommon are, Butler was optimistic about putting together a performance, if not a surprise win, this evening.
“Now that it was going to be on a Saturday, I think there would have been even more of a carnival atmosphere, especially as a celebration of Gaelic football and the GAA outside of Ireland. There was a sense of unfinished business for me, after last year,” Butler says.
Curran and his team-mates are hoping to put their preparations to some good use today, with a 1,000km charity run, in aid of a hardship foundation, Sláinte, established earlier this month to help the Irish-American community during the pandemic.
“We want to help raise money for families in our community who have received the worst end of Covid-19. People who are unemployed, who haven’t even received a stimulus cheque, to people who need help. Whatever we can do to help, we’re excited to help,” Curran says.
“(Galway hurler) Jonny Glynn is our trainer, and he gave us a programme to work on and we’ve just been doing that. We’ve been going on runs and bike rides. In the group chat, we all touch base and it seems everyone is following the programme, but I guess we’ll see who has really followed it this weekend.”
After missing out on Tir Chonaill Gaels’ county final appearance last year, through a technical suspension, their star man, Butler, has now set his sights on making amends later this year.
“For the last five or six years, we’ve had a schedule set out for the whole season, and now, having no training to go to after work is surreal,” says the former Queens Park Rangers sports scientist.
“I’m looking at it as a time to work on weaknesses, which you usually wouldn’t have time to work on during the season.”