London looking to build on last year’s success

Odds-on favourites Galway face a team no longer content with punchbag role

CONNACHT CHAMPIONSHIP QUARTER-FINAL London v Galway Ruislip, Sunday, 3.30 Life went on for the London footballers when the summer ended. They went back to a city that knew nothing about the team that carried its name and cared less. They knuckled down to jobs of ho-hum monotony alongside workmates who didn't rightly understand where they'd been. You took time off to play football? Some life, mate. Some life.

Winter fell and it was time to go again. Heads down, collars up, into the teeth of the gale once more. Because for all last summer’s success, reality is a stiff breeze and London always lose the coin toss. Their players still have to wade through millions of commuters as they inch their way to training; their panel still turns over more bodies from one month to the next than any other in the championship. No amount of summer adventures will ever change that.

Thin gruel So although Galway go to Ruislip with far from their strongest side, it's still substantial compared to the thin gruel London have had to get by on. Of the team that played in Croke Park against Cavan last July, only seven are starting tomorrow. Some are injured, some have moved on. The revolving door is still London's most annoying opponent.

"People think we're a flash in the pan," says Lorcan Mulvey, All Star nominee and captain. "That's just what people think. So it's up to us to change that."


Mulvey won’t start tomorrow, laid low with an ankle injury that has taken its time clearing up through the spring. The former Cavan forward has been pinpricked with small but insistent niggles for most of the three years he’s been around the London team, so this is nothing new. He’ll see action at some point tomorrow, nothing surer.

Missing Whether or not London will still be in the game by the time he does is another matter. They're missing Shane Mulligan as well, the former Monaghan player who was such a key part of their defence last year. Better news is the return of Mark Gottsche, their best player who missed most of last summer through injury.

“We’ve lost a few and picked up a few,” says Mulvey. “Ciarán McCallion and Caolan Doyle have gone and they’re a big loss . . . I don’t think anybody worked harder than them and they’re a big loss. But we have Joe Feeney from Armagh, Donnacha McCarthy from Cork in with us and they’ve been big additions.”

Another to join up since last summer is goalkeeper Adrian Faherty. In a neat twist, Faherty was the Galway goalkeeper the last time they played a championship match in Ruislip five years ago. London centre-forward Damien Dunleavy was in maroon that day too and in fact six of the home side tomorrow will be playing against their native county.

If their chances of success are slim, Mulvey still maintains the mood music surrounding them is a little different now on the back of last summer. The club championship has kicked up a notch and the desire to be more than just a punchbag for the higher-ups is strong across the scene.

"I think fellas are coming over here now with their eyes open," says Mulvey. "It's a different scenario now. If you imagine me coming over here in 2011, I had no idea whatsoever of what football was going to be like. I didn't know if it was going to be any good or if anyone was going to take it seriously. Card marked "Fellas arriving now have their card marked. That's probably the biggest difference last year made. It means that if you arrive here looking to play football, you know you're not going to get anything handy. You're going to need quality and commitment."

Still, the hurdles remain high. London had a desperate winter weatherwise and in a city without an all-weather GAA pitch, they did most of their work indoors. By the time the league came round, it had been six months since their last serious game together. And it showed. Their first three games in Division Four brought hidings from Wicklow, Clare and Tipperary. By the end, a win over Waterford and a draw against Carlow was the best they had to offer.

One way or the other, it's in the books now. Championship is here and it's only now we'll see what they've got. Once the nights got longer, they trained like demons and tried to fit lost time into squeezed time.

It shouldn’t work, but then that’s what we said last year. This isn’t the best Galway side ever to pitch up at Ruislip, but it would still be a massive shock if they left with anything other than a win.

Music to London’s ears, that kind of talk.

Last meeting: May 24th, 2009, Connacht Championship, Ruislip : Galway 1-18 London 1-7 Match odds: London 11/2; Galway 1/7; Draw 14/1 Injuries: London are starting without Lorcan Mulvey and Shane Mulligan, Galway have to do without Paul Conway and Gary Sice. Just the ticket: Adults £15, Student & OAP £5, U16 Free LONDON: Adrian Faherty; Philip Butler, Stephen Curran, Donnacha McCarthy; Seamus Hannon, Tony Gaughan, Michael Walsh; Mark Gottsche, Martin Carroll; Greg Crowley, Damien Dunleavy, Cathal O Neill; Eoin O'Neill, Paul Geraghty, Joe Feeney GALWAY: Manus Breathnach; Donal O'Neill, Finian Hanley, Johnny Duane; Gareth Bradshaw, Gary O'Donnell, Paul Varley; Fiontain O'Curraoin, Tom Flynn; Michael Lundy, Shane Walsh, James Kavanagh; Michael Martin, Eddie Hoare, Danny Cummins Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford) Verdict: Galway

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times