LIKE MANY YOUNG men, Seami Friel had a yearning to get away and see what life would be like.
When London came calling, the now 24-year-old ‘Nanny’ decided to take the punt and he made the move from his native Fanad. On the face of it, the two places couldn’t be more different but he’s taking it all in his stride and enjoying the experience. There mightn’t be a lighthouse, although there’s plenty more asides.
Tomorrow he will line out in the colours of his adopted club – Tír Chonaill Gaels – in the AIB All-Ireland Club SFC quarter-final when Clonmel Commercials come to Ruislip.
Having picked up employment similar to that he had at Pramerica in Letterkenny, as a project coordinator with Kelly’s Communications, owned by Tim Kelly from Frosses, Friel soon settled into city life earlier this year.
Something that aided that transition was his bedding in with Tír Chonaill Gaels, whom Paddy McConigley – a clubmate of Friel’s at Gaeil Fhánada, who was part of the Donegal side that won the 2007 National Football League Division One courtesy of a 0-13 to 0-10 win over Mayo at Croke Park.
This time last year, Friel had inter-county dreams of his own. Rory Gallagher had replaced Jim McGuinness as manager of the Donegal side who had won the 2014 Ulster championship and lost narrowly to Kerry in the All-Ireland final.
Gallagher was running the rule over a number of hopefuls at trial games that took place in Letterkenny and Convoy. Friel, who also played soccer for the likes of Fanad United, Drumkeen United, Cranford United and Letterkenny Rovers, had a hat in the ring.
“I was going to go to Finn Harps before I came over here,” Friel says. “It just didn’t really work out in the end. I wanted to play Gaelic as well. Nothing really came from the trial with the county panel. I was there for six weeks in all and it was an unbelievable experience.
“It helped me as a lot as a player. It was tough but enjoyable being up there around the likes of Rory. It was a good eye-opener – a slap in the face to adjust to – but it improved me as a player.”
“Paddy McConigley put in a good word for me at Tír Chonaill Gaels. It was hard at the time to leave Fanad Gaels as I always wanted to play for them. I still keep an eye out for their results.”
Friel didn’t know too many in London when he first arrived – his girlfriend Chloe McGettigan would follow him over a few weeks later – but had spoke to Tír Chonaill Gaels chairman Tom Mohan, who promised him the standard of football was good.
“Between Tom and Paddy before that, I was reassured that they’re a good club and always had a reputation of a club who would look after you,” Friel adds. “They sold it to me and over I went. The standard here is good; it’s higher than I thought.”
Another man who was involved in those county get-togethers last winter was Adrian Hanlon from Dungloe, while Ashley Carr of Kilcar is also part of the set-up, as is Brian McBrearty from St Eunan’s.
“It’s easy to get to know people over here, through football,” Friel adds. “I had only landed here and went to training that first week on the Tuesday night and was made welcome straight away. I didn’t know anyone before that but even from football at home, you always got to know people right away when you go to a new club. It was the same here.
“Lloyd Colfer, our coach, got talking to me straight away and I felt part of it.”
Friel is based in Harrow, only a 15-minute walk from his new club. Tír Chonaill Gaels got into their groove and two weeks ago defeated St Kieran’s to win the London SFC, with Friel and Hanlon grabbing a goal apiece in the final.
Tír Chonaill Gaels were supported that afternoon in Greenford by Friel’s brothers Mark and Johnny (pictured above), while friends Shaun McElwaine and Ciaran Martin also made the trip from home.
“The championship here was delayed to due an objection and it was hard training when you don’t know when you’re going to play next,” Friel added. “It’s stood to us in a way though, as we’ve won the semi-final and final since then. We’ve been going well and that can give us confidence going into Saturday.”
Clonmel are managed by another man who wore Fanad United’s colours with distinction, Charlie McGeever, although his and Friel’s path didn’t cross when the former Finn Harps manager – a native of Derryconnor and clubman of Cloughaneely – was based in the north-west before moving to Tipperary.
“It doesn’t really matter who we play and Clonmel have done well to win Munster,” Friel added. “I’m sure nobody gives us a hope but we’re confident and everyone is buzzing thinking about the game.
“Football in London is enjoyable; everyone is here for similar reasons. We enjoyed the London title and the craic was good but come the Tuesday night we were back training and looking at Clonmel. Everyone was straight back into it.
“The thing about London is, although there are people here playing for different teams, they all come together and will all be coming out to support us. Everyone wants us to win.”
Tomorrow’s game, throwing in at 1:30pm, is live on Irish TV.Tags: