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The Butler Brothers – Born In London, Raised On Gaelic Games

Speaking to both Killian and Philip Butler you have to pinch yourself and remember that you are speaking to two devout Gaels. Such are their London accents, it is easy to forget that these boys are Irish to the core. 

Born and raised in Greenford, the Butler brothers are key figures within the Tír Chonaill Gaels club, the current London champions and over the past few seasons, they have transferred their club form onto the county scene.

The elder of the two, Philip, first linked in with the London setup back in 2013. That year proved to be a very fruitful one for the Exiles as they defeated Sligo and Leitrim en route to a first-ever Connacht final appearance where they faced eventual All-Ireland finalists, Mayo.

Philip looks back on that year with particular fondness, citing the competitiveness within the squad as a reason for their championship run.

“Aw yeah, it was mad. It was my first year with the team as well. I thought it would happen every year but that’s not been the case but yeah it was great to be a part of, just the belief we had built up within the squad.

“It was really competitive, the week before the games you couldn’t pick the team. The A versus B games were mad, it was harder than some of the championship games, they were serious.

“The training as well was on another level you’d be coming off the training ground and you’d be dead. Everyone was just so confident and when we went into that Sligo game everybody felt that we weren’t going to lose and the same with Leitrim as well. It was different for Mayo obviously.”

Killian wasn’t involved in 2013, just 16 at the time he followed the team on their championship run and highlights that year as giving him the impetus to go on and represent London alongside his brother.

“When I was about 16 or something, Phil played in the Connacht final that 2013 year and I went to all the games except for Cavan in Croke Park. Watching him play on the big day out kind of spurred me on and made me want to play at that level. We haven’t got there yet but hopefully one day soon we’ll get there.”

The younger Butler would eventually make his mark on the GAA scene in the English capital and was called into the squad by current manager Ciaran Deely at just 18 years of age.

A proud period for the Butler family, Philip jokes that it’s not all happy-go-larry having his younger brother come into the squad. It’s clear that while there is a deep affection there that comes with being an older brother, there is most definitely a competitive nature that exists between them.

“It’s been alright (having Killian in the squad). But it can be a bit annoying sometimes,” laughs Philip.

“He’d call me out on a few things. But yeah, it’s good to have him there, he’s developed so well as a player which is great to see, although, he does think he’s better than me.”

Those involved with London GAA would be quick to tell you, with a smile of course, that Killian had a bit of ‘brash’ nature to him upon entering the squad and it’s something that he himself freely admits.

It came back to bite him a few years ago when he was dropped from the squad, however, it seems to have been the making of the man as he returned to the London setup with aplomb and has since cemented his place as a regular starter in the side.

“I would probably have been a bit too brash when I was going in at 18. I thought I was a different gravy but when you get there and you’re around that calibre of players you kind of get shot back to life on how good you actually are.

“But I had my brother there and Liam Gavaghan who I’ve known pretty much my whole life, we all live in Greenford. The transition, I didn’t find it tough but then I got dropped. I was in the first league panel then I kind of got dropped when I was 18 before being brought back a couple of weeks before the championship game with Mayo so that was kind of the making of who I am.

“I got an insight into what I needed to do to get back in the panel. I went back to TCG (Tír Chonaill Gaels) worked on my game and did the things I was told to then came back in and have been there ever since.”

There are seven native Londoners in the squad this year, one of the highest it’s ever been. It’s vital for a team like London to be able to produce their own talent given the large turnover that exists.

Philip believes the influx of Irish born players has no doubt been a good thing but agrees that they need to be producing more London born guys as that can only be beneficial.

“I suppose it helps because then you know that players are going to stay. They’re not going coming over from Ireland with the intention of going back or anything like that, they are going to stay around and you can build then with that core group.

“The influx of boys is good though we’ve got a good few boys like Lorcan Mulvey that have been there for years. It has been good but you do get lads that are coming in and then they are off again after a year or two.”

Killian looks to the progress that’s been made already and how the London born players are in it in order to preserve the future of Gaelic Games in the English capital.

“It’s about having the right mentality and having the right amount of players that have the mentality to play for London but from my perspective and probably the same with Liam and Phil is that we’ve kind of been in the system so long you’re just trying to be a role model for the younger ones coming through at 17 or 18 who want to play for London.

“They can look at Phil and Liam Gavaghan who’s been there the last four or five years, then you can also look at people like Paddy O’Connor, Aidan McGrath and Liam Gallagher who’ve come in this year having played on the junior team with TCG that is made up of all English born players and now they’re playing and starting games for London.

“They are going to be the mainstay for the next five to ten years and that helps in terms of the turnover and those kinds of things that you have your solid 15 or 16 lads that are English born.”

Galway travel to Ruislip tomorrow to take on the Butler brothers and their London brethren and while their backs may be to the wall coming up against last year’s All-Ireland semi-finalists, Philip Butler is confident that they are ready for the challenge ahead.

“You want to play in these big games against big teams and the best players. Galway got to an All-Ireland semi-final last year so if we can perform against them we can perform against anybody.

“It’s a massive challenge to be fair, they had a great season last year and they are one of the best teams in the country so it’s huge but we’ll give it our best.”

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