Monday 20 November 2017

Coggins confident Exiles have what it takes to beat the odds

London manager Paul Coggins speaks to his players following their victory. Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship, Quarter-Final, London v Sligo, Emerald Park, Ruislip, London, England. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
London manager Paul Coggins speaks to his players following their victory. Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship, Quarter-Final, London v Sligo, Emerald Park, Ruislip, London, England. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

DESPITE having beaten Sligo and Leitrim and taken Mayo to extra-time in recent seasons, London find themselves in familiar territory as long-odds outsiders heading into the first round of the Connacht championship next Sunday.

They are 5/1 to beat Galway in Ruislip, a rating which manager Paul Coggins regards as utterly irrelevant. It's the same every year – London will ignore everything except their own capacity to extract as much as they can from themselves.

Their ever-improving efforts almost downed Mayo in normal time in 2011 before losing in extra-time and a year later, took them to within a point of Leitrim.

The big breakthrough came this weekend a year ago when London beat Sligo before extending the exciting Connacht adventure by beating Leitrim in a replay to make a provincial final.

It was a magical summer for London, whose only previous championship win came in 1977, and while the Connacht voyage ended in defeat by Mayo, they later had an outing in Croke Park where they lost to Cavan in the All-Ireland qualifiers.

Now, it's Galway's turn to face the London test in Ruislip in what could be a very tricky tie for Alan Mulholland's men.

"We'll definitely make it as hard as we can. Galway were two divisions above us in the league but we always ignore things like that," said London manager Coggins.

After the excitement of last year's championship, this season's Division 4 campaign appeared something of an anti-climax. London took three of a possible 14 points (beating Waterford and drawing with Carlow) – a return which looked disappointing to outsiders.

However, the view inside the London camp was far more upbeat, having factored in the usual hindrances which apply at the start of the year.

By its nature, London's player turnover tends to be much higher than other teams, nor do they have the same level of pre-season activity to fine-tune them for the new season. London have lost around six of last year's squad – some have returned to Ireland, others have gone further afield – so it took time to re-shape the team during the league.

"I'd be happy enough with how it went," said Coggins. "We beat a very good Waterford team and played well in quite a few of the games we lost. We have worked hard since the end of the league and while we wouldn't have had as many challenge games as Galway, we're used to getting ourselves right for the start of the championship with what we have."

London's two Connacht wins last year will have put Galway on red alert but London have shown over the last three seasons that, come late May in Ruislip, they are ready for all-comers.

"People may be looking at London in a different light this year, but isn't that a good thing?" said Coggins.

"All we're looking for is respect and I think we've done enough to earn it. We feel we're in a good place in terms of being ready for the Galway game. Hopefully, we can now do ourselves justice."

Irish Independent

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