Tuesday 26 September 2017

Connacht to help fund London's return trip

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

CONNACHT Council are willing to give London some financial help with travelling back for next Sunday's semi-final replay against Leitrim.

The Exiles funded their own trip to Carrick-on-Shannon last Sunday when they almost pulled off one of the greatest shocks in the history of the game.

Insiders say their costs – which involved flying over a party of 30 and staying two nights at the Lough Allen Hotel in Drumshanbo – came to between €8,000 and €10,000.

They are expected to have to do the same for Sunday's replay in Roscommon and immediately started looking at fund-raising options yesterday. But Connacht secretary John Prenty has indicated the provincial organisers are willing to foot some of their costs.

"When other teams travel to Ruislip for the first round, London get to keep the whole gate, that is why they have to fund themselves after that," Prenty said. "But this is an unprecedented situation and we are talking to them."

That should also help offset some of the upset that London are not getting to host the game in Ruislip but Prenty and London chairman Noel O'Sullivan confirmed there is an agreement between them in relation to venues.

O'Sullivan explained that an agreement was put in place when London first joined the Connacht championship in 1975 which states the Exiles must play any semi-finals or finals in Connacht.

He admitted that the replay presents a logistical nightmare for the Exiles, who flew over on Saturday and returned yesterday morning.

"We are not happy to have to go to Hyde Park next week but we have to remember we are only a guest of the Connacht Council," O'Sullivan said.

"They allow us to take part in their competition and the agreement reached in the '70s, when we first joined, means we have to play the game in Connacht.

"It is not ideal for us, but we are pleased to be able to take part in such a wonderful competition."

London PRO Declan Flanagan, one of those who did not make the trip last weekend, said there was widespread disappointment locally that the replay is not heading back across the Irish Sea.

"I've been fielding calls all day wondering why it is going to Roscommon," he said. "There is a feeling that hosting it would give us even more profile and exposure but obviously arrangements have been in place."

ITV London featured the team on their Friday evening news and the BBC have already expressed interest in covering them if they reach the Connacht final for the first time.

Sky Sports brought their cameras to London's training two years ago when they made history by winning their first game in the All-Ireland qualifiers.

TRADITIONAL

Flanagan revealed a more traditional method – listening to the game on radio – was the only way some of London's long-time devotees were able to follow last weekend's cliff-hanger.

"There was no live visual streaming of it but I brought my laptop down to Ruislip, put it on a table and we listened to it on Ocean FM radio," he revealed.

"There were 20 to 30 people there, many of them elderly fans. It was like a scene from the '30s or '40s but we were just grateful to be able to listen to it."

Getting further time off work to travel across the Irish Sea again this weekend presents London with extra problems. Super-sub Sean Kelly from Crossmolina, who scored 1-1 to almost steal it for them last weekend, is typical of their demographic.

He was once on the same underage Sligo Rovers team as Leitrim captain Emlyn Mulligan and Sligo's classy sharpshooter David Kelly but is now completing a Masters at the British School of Osteopathy in central London.

"I've a hectic schedule this week, I need to get back in and do a few days (work) but hopefully we'll be able to get some rest, regroup and get ready again for next Sunday," he said.

"We wanted to come and put in a performance and were probably a bit under par but we managed to salvage it.

"We didn't have any wides in the second half, we made good use of the limited chances we had so that's maybe something we can look to address next Sunday."

London centre-forward Lorcan Mulvey, a former Cavan senior whose parents both come from Carrick-on-Shannon, said "it's time people started realising how seriously we take it over there".

"There's serious talent over there if we can get it together and get it bonded together," he added. "Every game counts for us, playing together is massive and you could call this half-time now.

"Against Sligo (in the quarter-final) we panicked in the second half when we went a man down and just hung on. Hopefully the confidence will rise with every minute of football we play."

The main worry for London boss Paul Coggins, a Roscommon native, is ex-Galway senior Mark Gottsche, who was forced off on Sunday with a groin injury but Leitrim have similar worries over star forward Emyln Mulligan.

He picked up a calf injury in training last Thursday and it got worse soon after throw-in on Sunday and he lasted only 15 minutes.

Irish Independent

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