Rowe savours remarkable year

 
 

Emigration has played a massive part in the GAA's heritage since its formation in 1884. During the intervening years, there have been sporadic periods where GAA clubs have had to suffer the loss of many players through their search for work abroad.

Unfortunately, the diaspora is once again increasing at an alarming rate. For many that travel abroad, their GAA careers may come to an end, while in some cases, their allegiance is switched to a new club, but the heart will always belong to home and the players you have togged out alongside since you first held a hurl or kicked a football.

In early 2012, Mooncoin hurler PJ Rowe became just another statistic when he had to leave the home country in search of work. London was his destination, where employed was soon gained. Little did he realise that the next 12 months would become the most successful in his GAA career to date.

The 23-year-old played all his underage hurling with his native Mooncoin and lined out for their intermediate side up until his decision to emigrate last year and he revealed to Hoganstand.com that he was not the only one in the area to leave.

“Of the under-21 team that I played on with the club two years ago, eight of us have not left the area in search of work, which is a massive loss to a small rural club like ours, but unfortunately there is no other choice at the moment,” said PJ.

“Emigration is a major problem within the GAA at the moment and I suppose I'm one of the fortunate ones that gets to keep playing hurling at a decent level.”

When PJ landed in London, he immediately joined the St Gabriel's club, which are one of the top teams in the English capital. Not only that he was brought into the London hurling squad and played a vital role in their run to winning the Christy Ring Cup.

He then helped St Gabriel's win the London championship and was part of the side that reached the All-Ireland club intermediate hurling championship final where they lost out to Kilkenny side Clara in the final at Croke Park.

“Little did I think coming over here that I would get to play in Croke Park twice. Winning the Christy Ring Cup was a huge bonus for us and hopefully we can push on from that this year. To win a London championship was also a great achievement and we were unlucky to come up against a strong Clara side in the All-Ireland final.

“I would know a lot of the Clara boys having played against them up through the years and in fairness, they probably should never have been intermediate in the first place. I do believe if we met anyone else on the day, we would have won, but credit to them they were just too strong for us.”

PJ is employed as a projects manager with Oliver Connell & Son, which specialises in groundworks, concrete forming and formwork. Oliver is a Westmeath native steeped in the GAA and established the company, which is based in Ealing, West London in 1974.