A new dawn begins on Sunday for London’s Gaelic footballers when they take on Sligo in the first game of their 2020 Allianz Division 4 campaign.
The bright light of the new dawn is new manager Michael Maher – who is the first-ever London-born manager to take charge of London’s Gaelic football team.
Maher takes over from Ciaran Deely who left the London managerial post last year after their season ended in the first round of the All-Ireland Qualifiers in an away loss to Offaly.
Maher, who was a selector and coach on Deely’s backroom team, would have learnt a lot from Deely and has previous managerial experience having managed his club Round Towers as well as leading London to underage honours.
London only managed one win last season but in reality they could have picked up a couple more results along the way, with the likes of Limerick and Leitrim suffering massive scares courtesy of the hard-working Londoners.
London are looking to build on the sterling work Deely started and have a wide range of London-born talent which will continue to increase with more highly talented London players from clubs across the capital staking a claim for a spot on the panel, while the underage and minor teams are helping young gaels develop and flourish in their ability.
With the season ahead and this fresh start, London have nothing to fear and they will use the fact teams don’t walk away with a win from Ruislip easily as a number of sides found out last season including Limerick, Waterford and Galway in the Championship to their advantage. Especially as this campaign London have more home games than away and have every chance of getting a positive result in every single home match.
However, manager Maher is level-headed about his side’s chances this league campaign and believes London will have to perform at “100% to get on top of the opposition” due to the fact that every county in Ireland have played a number of warm-up games in pre-season cups, something London do not take part in.
London have had a challenge match and been on a pre-season training camp but Maher believes it could take a few games to get up to levels of fitness of the other counties in Division 4 because of the lack of involvement in the pre-season cups, but believes every game is winnable if London hit that magic 100% work-rate.
Sligo head to Ruislip after having a 2019 to forget – losing every single competitive game they played last year and saw them relegated from Division 3.
In the last two meetings between the sides each team has a win to their name. London beat Sligo in Ruislip in 2013 on their way to their first-ever Connacht Final, while Sligo comfortably won in the Connacht Championship when the sides met in 2018.
The men from Connacht have lost their captain Niall Murphy and key player Adrian McIntyre and appear to be a side low on confidence, which could be something London will look to exploit.
But the Thamessiders will also be weary of Sligo looking to bounce back after their torrid season last year and will look to threaten the London back-line with Adrian Marren, who is expected to be back in the starting 15 for the visitors and Coolera man Keelan Cawley will also be a man London will need to keep an eye on.
Sligo will be foolish to take London lightly and the home side, led by London-born skipper and Tir Chonaill Gaels man Liam Gavgahan, have a lot of talent in their ranks both London-born and experienced Irish-born players all able to change a game in London’s favour and they’ll be determined to send out a message to the rest of the division that they mean business once again.
With both sides going through their own different transition periods, whoever is up for it the most at McGovern Park on Sunday afternoon will walk away with the points.
Tickets can be paid for on the gate at McGovern Park and are £10 for adults and £5 for concessions. Throw-in is at 2pm.