Mark Gottsche knows London in need of a second act as league kicks into action
Addition of Tyrone’s All Star nominee Cathal McCarron will boost last year’s Connacht finalists
Mark Gottsche: “There is a determination there within the squad to do well in the league. We were disappointed with our league results last year. We came out on the wrong side of three one- or two-point games.” Photograph: Jim Keogh/Inpho
The problem with lighting up the sky is that people tend to notice. For the first time since they joined the league in 1993, London are more than an afterthought. They’ve been upgraded to curio status, with a further bump to serious opposition pending. At the very least, any points they pick up over the course of this league won’t raise eyebrows like they would have in the past.
Mark Gottsche had the dreaded misfortune of being forced to sit out a large chunk of their summer of summers. He kicked four points in the win over Sligo but his season fizzled out to a painful end thereafter and by the time his team-mates were running out for the Connacht final and becoming the first London side to play in Croke Park, Gottsche was under the surgeon’s knife.
He needed a double groin reconstruction which, he says, is exactly as painful as it sounds.
July and August were a struggle and it was only near the end of 2013 he was able to get back playing. A few club games to close out the year was as much as he could manage. Yet he isn’t of a mind to feel sorry for himself at having missed out.
“If you were selfish, you could look at it that way. But if you were into individual sport, you would play tennis or something like that. This is about the team and we back each other as best we can.
“Cathal Green is going to be out for the year after he did his cruciate there recently, but everyone is going to be pulling for him and everyone knows that lads are going to get injured.
“It’s a team game at the end of the day. I was disappointed on a personal level but I was delighted to be part of a London team that had such a great year.”He is well aware they need a second act now.
A glance at the Division Four league tables for the past few seasons makes for poor reading. Dead last in 2013, only Kilkenny below them the further back you go.
As far as Gottsche is concerned, however, a glance does them a disservice. Look a little closer and those campaigns haven’t been the dead loss they might appear.
“There is a determination there within the squad to do well in the league. We were disappointed with our league results last year. We came out on the wrong side of three one- or two-point games.
“So we’ve talked a lot at training about coming out on the right side of those results this time. The more we do that, the better the experience we get.”
For all the progress they’ve made, it’s still a matter of rolling a boulder up a hill for London. The metropolitan life is transitory and players pass through. Caolán Doyle has gone to Dubai to a teaching job, Ciarán McCallion is in Australia now. So it goes.
The flipside, however, is new faces, chief among them All Star-nominated Tyrone defender Cathal McCarron and Michael Walsh from Mayo.
They’ll continue to mix and match as best they can but Gottsche concedes it’s possible they won’t beas match-ready as some of the teams they will meet early on.
They have Wicklow on Sunday, Carlow the week after – both sides with three proper pre-season matches under their belts. What London would give for the same.
“Every other county has their FBD or O’Byrne Cup, or whatever, over them at this stage. They’ve been building and preparing and have got some match fitness going since early January. We had some challenge games but those aren’t competitive in the way something like the McKenna Cup would be.
Takes its toll
“So it will take us a couple of games to catch up with the other teams in terms of match fitness. That takes its toll.
“Last year in the first round we were ahead against Offaly at half-time but they came back at us in the second half and beat us by a point. And in the second game, we led against Carlow all the way through but they went ahead in the last minute to beat us. If we’d had preparation games, we maybe would have held on. That’s the big difference.”
Still, they’ll dig in and find a way. Their achievements last summer demand it.