Croke Park denies Exiles 'home' trip for pre-Connacht friendlies
LONDON'S footballers have been refused permission to come home to play two inter-county challenge games next weekend in preparation for the Connacht championship.
The GAA has to sanction such friendlies and the Exiles had applied to play Wicklow on Saturday and Louth on Sunday. All the arrangements were in place but the GAA surprisingly turned down their request.
That leaves the Division 4 table-proppers without the sort of inter-county practice they were desperately seeking ahead of their Connacht quarter-final against Sligo on May 26.
Croke Park officials cited Rule 12.6 as the reason for the refusal. This bars inter-county panels from going on "training weekends, or training of longer duration, after the end of their respective national leagues, except during the 13 days prior to a senior championship game."
This rule was introduced to stop inter-county managers taking their players away for training weekends at the expense of their local club programmes.
Such trips flourished at the height of the Celtic Tiger but the practice has dwindled dramatically due to the costs involved and London are shocked that this rule is being applied to them.
"It is not like we are going abroad or anything," London manager Paul Coggins said. "We are actually going 'home' and only because that is the only way we can get the sort of quality of competition that we need so badly to prepare for the Connacht championship."
The Exiles confirmed last night that they have accepted the decision, but they could point to several anomalies.
If they were based in Ireland organising two challenge games over two days would hardly be regarded as a 'training trip'. They also encountered no trouble getting permission for similar friendlies in the past two years.
London played Wicklow in a challenge match in Bray last season. And a year earlier they played Dublin club Na Fianna and the Kildare juniors over one weekend to get the same type of practice, which is why this refusal has mystified them.
For the second consecutive year the GAA has set aside next Friday night for all counties to meet their fans and the press but, in anticipation of travelling home, London held their press night last Friday.
They would have had to move local club games in order to facilitate the sort of challenge games they believe any of the rest of the 32 counties would have no problem getting sanctioned.