Emigration giving Exiles bright future -- Coggins
THE recession has rarely been viewed as a good thing by those within the GAA, but there are some who can benefit from the downturn.
The return of emigration may be harming clubs throughout the country, but for the ex-pat communities -- and London GAA in particular -- it has bolstered playing ranks and given them a fillip ahead of the Connacht championship.
While London manager Paul Coggins is not talking up his side's chances of upsetting Mayo at Ruislip tomorrow, he believes the day when the Exiles make a real impact is not far away.
Although a Roscommon native, the former London player knows all about Mayo football, having gone to school in Ballyhaunis.
His parents are both from Mayo and the county flag is often flown in the garden of their Granlahan home, behind enemy lines. He's hoping it's not up this weekend.
Despite the increase in Irish people living in London, the Exiles have lost some key players like Eamon O Cuiv and Conor Beirne, while goalkeeper Brian McBrearty is out injured.
Former Galway senior Mark Gottsche and former Kerry and Meath underage players Mike Maloney and Barry Comer have been drafted in, while youngsters like Liam Gavignan and Tom Waters will be expected to make the step up.
This is Coggins' first season at the helm and the turnover has been high. The league yielded just two wins, one over Kilkenny and the other a walkover against Leitrim.
It's not stellar form but, while they face an uphill battle tomorrow, Coggins believes London have plenty to look forward to in years to come as the number of quality players grows.
"Absolutely there's a bright future in London," he said. "With the new players and the help of a few of the lads that are already there and developing the underage -- all those things have to be done.
"It's not just about good players coming over from Ireland, there's a lot more to it than that. There's more things we need to improve on.
"Obviously, we're all aiming to win matches and it's a big plus to have quality players coming from Ireland. That will raise the competition for places and so it's all good for us in the future. It takes time and it's early days yet."
Coggins reckons London's league results were deceptive and believes performances improved as the campaign went on.
"Sunday will help show us whether we have replaced the players we have lost," he said. "When I started it was -- except for five or six -- a completely new set-up for the league. You have to stay loyal to those players, they were training with us from early January.
"But we've built with the lads we've had and I'm very, very happy with them. They've worked hard and hopefully they can give a big performance against Mayo.
"I wasn't overly disappointed at all (with the league). The new players take time, it can't possibly happen that quickly -- no manager could do it.
"Mick O'Dwyer wouldn't have done it in his prime, so we're happy enough with the way we're progressing but we do want to get better results, that's what we're aiming for in the league and the championship."
While London's day might be coming, the new-look Mayo won't be quaking in their boots just yet. But Coggins is hoping a good display would provide evidence of some big days to come.