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Home away from home

9 June 2021

It was a Sunday of celebration for Chris Duggan and the strong Down contingent currently playing for Fulham Irish as they beat fierce rivals Tir Chonaill Gaels in the final of the 2020 London Senior Football Championship. 

The former St John Bosco and Down midfielder was part of a plethora of locals who helped Fulham to a 2-17 to 0-16 victory after extra-time in Ruislip. 

For Duggan, now 30, it marks his first senior title win of his career, having moved to London in May 2019 to work for a tech company following a spell with First Derivatives.  

Duggan hit two points in the win, with Burren’s Anton McArdle grabbing another, while Saval’s Liam Turley, Kilcoo’s Roger Morgan and another Bosco man, Daire Rooney, also featured in the win. 

“There’s a massive Down contingent over here and I think, historically, that has always been the case with Fulham for some reason. I’m not too sure why. It was Anton [McArdle] who roped me into playing. I had thought that I maybe wouldn’t play when I came over, but he asked me to come down. It’s a good group of lads,” Duggan explained.  

“The reason everybody comes to London is to work and I think it ticks a lot of boxes, because you’re playing with boys who are like-minded and the football is almost secondary. It’s a good community and it’s like you’re setting up a bit of a social network when you move to a new city. 

“In terms of the standard, I feel we would have a pretty decent Division 1 side in Down or Armagh if we were playing back home. It’s really surprised me to be honest,” he added. 

The last four finals have been between Fulham and Tir Chonaill Gaels (TCG) with Fulham last winning in 2017 when Tyrone star Owen Mulligan kicked a last minute winning free. While TCG won in 2018 and 2019 and are seen as the London kingpins, Fulham Irish, who formed in 2006, have taken the title in 2011, 2017 and now 2020. 

On the match itself, TCG began much the brighter of the two sides and scored three quick points, two from the excellent Liam Gavaghan. However, Fulham gradually began to work their way into the game, and with McArdle, Duggan and Turley prominent, they tagged on some good scores via Galbally’s Michael Murphy, who was a member of the 2005 Tyrone All-Ireland panel, and Westport’s Liam Staunton.

While TCG led 0-5 to 0-3 at the first half water break and added another on the resumption, Murphy registered two marks to leave just a point between the sides at the interval.  

Fulham began the second period well with McArdle scoring a long range point after a superb defensive effort to bring the sides level for the first time since the first minute.

In a tight encounter, TCG got a fisted point and a free before Duggan brought Fulham back to within one, 0-9 to 0-8. However, TCG then started to pull away. They were faster, more efficient and retained possession across the pitch to get to 0-12 to 0-9 with relative ease.

Fulham sub and former Kerry Hurler Jack Goulding then scored a stunning point with the outside of his right foot from near the sideline after a great dispossession by Bosco’s Daire Rooney, but with just a few minutes left, it was 0-13 to 0-10 to TCG and Fulham looked done. 

However, points from Duggan and former Galway player Paddy Naughton got it to 0-13 to 0-12 but time was almost up. But, with the last kick of normal time, Ronan Sloane levelled matters with a point to take it to extra-time.

TCG forged ahead by the minimum, 0-15 to 0-14 by half-time in extra-time before the sides exchanged points early in the second period. 

Then came the pivotal moment.

Goulding fired in a left to right pass for Murphy who leapt with the TCG keeper, but the ball evaded everyone to bounce into the net and put Fulham 1-15 to 0-16 in front with five minutes remaining.

Fulham then sealed the win shortly after when Goulding again found Murphy who burst clear to find the bottom right-hand corner of the net. 

For Duggan and his team-mates, it was a special day all round, 

“I played in my first senior final when I was 16, back in 2007. Since then I’ve played in a Junior final, two intermediate finals and then last year’s final for Fulham Irish against TCG again. But it was only at the weekend that I picked up my second medal. It was nice for me, personally, to get the monkey off my back after 14 seasons and finally get a senior medal,” he explained.  

“It’s like any club back home, where a lot of work goes on behind the scenes. If you think logistically about London, it’s a big commitment. You’re finishing work and then travelling an hour across town to train for an hour and a half and then you’re maybe not getting back into the house until sometimes 10 or 11 that evening. But it’s been worth it. 

“The last four finals have been contested between ourselves and TCG, I’ve played in two of them and they are nip and tuck every year. So, I would expect to see those guys again sometime soon,” adds Duggan, who revealed the side didn’t hold back on the celebrations. 

“After the year everybody has had, you don’t get too many days like Sunday so it’s great that we were able to celebrate.

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