Shane Mulligan’s long commute brings a Connacht final at the end of the line
It can be a slog with 18-hour days and treks across the city but London’s centre back is happy to keep going
“There was one stage earlier in the year where I said, ‘Look, I can’t do this anymore.’ I think maybe it was just a bad week at work or whatever. Everything seemed to be getting on top of me. I rang Paul and said I was done, that I was going to be no good to him going on like this. And he said to have a think about it. He was more or less telling me to cop myself on really. There’s always a way if you want to find it.
“It’s funny, I had a weekend to myself and I basically realised it was only a speed wobble. As soon as I’d done it, I regretted it. The boys were away playing a game and I was sitting at home on the Saturday not really knowing what to do with myself. I was watching TV and thinking, ‘Right, I’m at the wrong thing here. I have to back playing with the lads.’”
Especially since now it felt like there might be something to play for.
Bond Street, 6.34pm
Service is good on the Central line. That wouldn’t always be the case, mind. There was one time a few weeks ago where it was delayed by about 20 minutes and arrived at Bond Street stuffed to the door.
By no sane measurement was there room for him and his gear-bag but he was already late for training and he couldn’t not get on. He wouldn’t say he’s proud of it but there was an Indian guy who got introduced to the concept of the fair shoulder that day.
How far is it to Ruislip? Put it this way – on his first visit out there, he smiled as the familiar smell of slurry greeted him from the next field over. He grew up in Aghabog, which is exactly as rural as it sounds. Ruislip isn’t quite on that scale but when there are cattle watching through the ditch you know you’re a world away from Woolwich.
On he goes, through Shepherd’s Bush and White City, past Greenford where they train through the winter. The train pulls into South Ruislip at 7.10 and he spots three of his team-mates getting off another carriage. They walk the rest of the way together, hopping craic off each other as they go.
“I had a journalist onto me today,” says Lorcan Mulvey, the big Cavan full-forward. “You know what he asked me? He said I presume all London footballers work on building sites and that yis all go on the beer the whole time. I didn’t want to disappoint the fella.”
By the time they walk through the gates, it’s an hour and 50 minutes since he left Woolwich. Straight away he’s delighted when he sees the work van of one of the other players. “Deadly, there’s a lift home,” he smiles. It’ll save him the guts of 40 minutes later on.
This is the life. This is what it takes. Days that last 18 hours door-to-door, nights when the mind and body are still buzzing from training even though he needs to sleep ahead of the next 5.15 alarm. Most of his team-mates have much the same story.
They are the glitch in the system, the splodge of colour outside the lines. They fight every battle with one arm tied behind their back and yet they’re in a Connacht final while Sligo and Leitrim burn.
However it ends, it’s some achievement. If Mayo put a cricket score on them tomorrow, so what? That’s what’s supposed to happen. And anyway, the journey always means more than the destination.
Nobody knows that better than the London footballers