Paul Coggins set for Mayo clash after London’s finest hour
Cillian O’Connor adamant Mayo will not take London lightly in Connacht final
Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor: Connacht final may come too soon for him as he recovers from a shoulder injury.
After the storm comes the calm, or at least whatever peace and normality comes with returning to their day jobs in and around London city.
In beating Leitrim on Sunday, in dramatically heart-stopping fashion, the footballers of London may have written their names into a Connacht final for the first time, but now comes the reality of having to contest it, in Castlebar, on July 21st, against Mayo – definitely one of the best teams in the country, who also know perfectly well the dangers of taking London for granted.
It also leaves London with just under three weeks to prepare, not just for the biggest game of their careers, but for the tricky itinerary that comes with it: three separate flights were required to get all the players to Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon on Sunday, and there’ll no doubt be plenty more requests for wives and girlfriends and other companions to come along next time.
London manager Paul Coggins refuses to make an issue of this: had Leitrim progressed on Sunday, the Connacht Council would likely have fixed the final for a neutral venue, but under the arrangements that allow them compete in Connacht, London are guaranteed home advantage in Ruislip for their first game, then must travel away to whatever game they make after that.
“Of course we intend on giving it our best shot,” said Coggins, the Roscommon native, in his third season in charge with London. “We all know how good a team Mayo are, but we’ll train hard again, go in there in a competitive spirit. That’s what we’re about.”
Mayo, meanwhile, won’t need any reminding of what Coggins very nearly orchestrated in his first season in charge, in Ruislip, in 2011: it went down as the near shock of the summer, as London forced Mayo into extra-time – before eventually losing out 0-19 to 2-10. For Mayo manager James Horan, also in his first season in charge, it proved a vital lesson, as his team regrouped for the Connacht semi-final, beating Galway, with further wins over Roscommon and Cork, before falling to Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Also making his Mayo senior debut in that near-death experience against London was a then 19-year-old forward Cillian O’Connor: he recalled this yesterday, also updating the progress on the shoulder injury which will likely rule him out of that game, but hopefully not for the rest of the summer.
“I wouldn’t know any of the London lads, no,” he said. “I wouldn’t have expected to be playing them either, at least not at the start of the year. But once they beat Sligo I thought they might come through the Leitrim test. I know Leitrim won the FBD League, but it was always going to be a close game. Now London have taken two scalps in Sligo and Leitrim, it’s a huge achievement.
Last kick of game
“I came off the bench against them, in Ruislip, in 2011. We equalised with the last kick of the game to bring it to extra-time. We were just happy to get out of there, so we don’t need to be told the problems they can pose. We definitely took lessons out of 2011 and went on to win a Connacht championship that year. We know all about the problems they can pose and the way they play.” O’Connor is facing a race against time to put himself in contention, but he won’t be rushing it either: a week after losing last year’s All-Ireland final to Donegal, he dislocated his left shoulder playing for his club, and spent most of the winter in rehab. He returned to action in time for part of the league, but then on May 25th dislocated the same shoulder, again playing for his club, and has been back in rehab ever since.
“It’s getting there,” admitted O’Connor, speaking in Dublin in his role as brand ambassador for Kinetica supplements. “It’s a slow process but it’s improving all the time.”
The Connacht final is already being billed as a no-win situation for Mayo: they’ll surely win, but whether they do it the hard way or the easy way people will always say it was only London: had Mayo been forced to travel to London then that might have made it more interesting.
“Maybe it’s something the GAA could have looked at,” said O’Connor, “although I hadn’t heard that being said, about putting it in London . . . To have home venue for us is obviously an advantage and we’re happy enough with that.”