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London star Obahor reveals switch from soccer to GAA as Arsenal lost priority

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JOSH OBAHOR’S dream went from Arsenal to London GAA. 

The Exiles midfielder, 24, grew up in Harrow to a Nigerian father and a mother from Cork. 

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Josh Obahor switched his focus from soccer to GAA while growing up in Harrow
Obahor has had to put Arsenal further down his pecking order to star for London GAA

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Obahor has had to put Arsenal further down his pecking order to star for London GAA

In that part of the city, the Gunners rule the roost. Highbury was the centre of the universe before the North London giants made the short move to their new home at the Emirates Stadium. 

But Obahor’s primary school at St. Joseph’s opened different doors.

Irish teachers and coaches ensured GAA was a mainstay on the playground, and he kicked his first football at 10. 

His love for Arsenal never waned, but soccer soon became second fiddle when he joined the Parnells club, and the rest is history. 

He said: “Growing up, it is not something that you really have sight of, playing Gaelic football. It just happened naturally. 

“A lot of my friends were playing it, it was actually taught in my primary school and I got into it like that. 

“You know what, I think in a lot of the Catholic schools in north-west London, there is Gaelic coached in them, there was coaches coming in from around London GAA, teaching both Gaelic and hurling.

“I went to St Joseph’s primary school in Harrow. It is quite a common thing, Gaelic and hurling in primary schools, especially where I am from in north-west London.

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“Arsenal, obviously, are my team. I am still living in hope that we can win the league but I don’t know, hard to see City slipping up. City are just a different animal.

“I always played soccer and Gaelic together, always considered soccer as my main sport but as I got older, I started to prioritise Gaelic over soccer, because I enjoyed it more.

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“I started off as a goalkeeper, and I definitely didn’t have those aspirations to play for London! 

“But when I did get the call-up to play London under-age, there was definitely a pathway for me to get to senior.” 

Obahor gets to see the Gunners in action as often as he can, but London comes first. 

They start their Tailteann Cup campaign against Offaly today in Tullamore. 

Getting to training is always tricky in rush hour traffic with players coming from all over the city, but he would not have it any other way – and his Irish blood helps. 

CORK BLOOD

He said: “My mum’s from Cork, she moved over to London a long time ago. She is from Douglas. All of my family are on my mum’s side are over in Cork and then my Dad is from Nigeria.

“We used to go to Cork all the time, my Cork family are more into the rugby than the Gaelic, but we go to Cork quite a lot. They are big Munster fans. Mum’s name is Melissa, Dad’s name is Ego Obahor.

“You have to be fully committed and into it to really enjoy it. People talk about the travel, and that there is a lot of travelling but every county is travelling, whether it is by coach or by plane, so it is great to play. And we enjoy coming over to Ireland for the games.

“We train on a rugby pitch in the winter months, so that can be difficult, but now there is a bit of light in the evenings, it is good to get out on a Gaelic pitch, so the team morale is quite high at the moment.”

He is one of four home-grown players in the squad along with boss Michael Maher.

The dressing room door opens and closes all the time as Irish players come and go through work or sturdy. 

KEEPING STARS

But he hopes that vital local cohort can only get bigger as time goes on to give them a more consistent panel of players to compete. 

He said: “I think we have managed to keep a decent core of our players who played the last couple of seasons, but it is definitely something that happens, just naturally. 

“Boys come over for work and might be only planning to stay two or three years, I guess that is just part of what London is. We are called the Exiles for a reason. 

“It is part of what the culture is around London, that is why we need the home-grown players, so they can form the core when the other players come and go.

“At the moment, there are four – there is Shay Rafter, Tadhg Barry, Liam Gallagher and myself, so there is more than there usually is. 

“I have been with the senior panel since 2021, and I made my debut last year. Shay Rafter and Tadhg Barry, this is their first year on the panel, so it is great to see home-grown players coming up through the ranks.”

Maher’s men had a tough NFL Division 4 campaign, only winning a single game against Waterford along with a draw against Tipp with five defeats. 

Galway hammered them 5-21 to 0-9 in the Connacht SFC last month. Obahor admits facing a top-level team was a huge reality check. 

UNDERDOG HOPES

But he hopes their hard work since then can rattle a few cages in the Tailteann Cup – starting with Offaly today before their other group stage games against Limerick and Down. 

Looking out across Croke Park as he spoke, he had no shortage of inspiration. 

He said: “It was my first experience playing a Division one team and it was a humbling experience, just seeing the quality they have, on and off the ball. 

“It was great to be involved in a game of that magnitude. We were disappointed with our own performance, thought we could have put on a better show, but eye-opening to see.

“I was saying that it is great to be here (at Croke Park), to take pictures and do this, but you want to be playing on the pitch, to be honest. Being here now, I am definitely motivated to see where we can get to.”

London ace Josh Obahor was speaking at the launch of the 2024 Tailteann Cup, which begins today 

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