Wednesday 13 December 2017

Exiles 'galvanised' by obstacles they have overcome – Coggins

Paul Coggins: Overcoming obstacles
Paul Coggins: Overcoming obstacles
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

THEY may have just written themselves into GAA history but one third of the London footballers had to dash back to Dublin airport on Sunday night to return home in time for work the next morning.

That alone underlines the sort of unique challenges the Exiles will face as they prepare for a historic Connacht final against Mayo on July 21.

"About seven or eight of the lads had to go back down the motorway to Dublin fairly quickly to catch the last flight back," manager Paul Coggins said. "Paul Murphy was actually starting a new job on Monday morning.

"We also have some schoolteachers and other fellas who just couldn't miss work the next morning," he explained.

"But, in fairness, their employees have been very good so far and some of them probably don't even understand what we've achieved," he said. "We'll just have to ask them to continue to be as patient in the coming three weeks."

Coggins admitted yesterday that the obstacles placed in London's path so far this year, primarily by the GAA itself, have played a part in their historic breakthrough.

Croke Park blocked his plan to bring his team home for two inter-county challenge matches to prepare for the Connacht championship.

Home teams had no problem getting similar challenge games sanctioned but the GAA ruled that London's trip would constitute a 'training camp,' which is illegal within a certain pre-championship time-frame.

The so-called 'Seanie Johnston' rule, whereby players must play a club championship game to be eligible for inter-county championship action, also hit London particularly badly.

An emergency meeting of clubs was needed to start their local club championship earlier than usual in order to get over a dozen of their players eligible for Connacht SFC action.

"It meant we had players playing club championships at the end of January and the start of February, which didn't suit them or their clubs," Coggins said. "But in one way all the obstacles we've met have probably galvanised us.

"Everything that was put up against us, we've just kept knocking down those walls and that's how we'll be regarding the Connacht final as well."

With Dr Hyde Park ruled out for the final due to health and safety rulings, Connacht Council opted for Castlebar which gives two-in-a-row champions Mayo home advantage.

But Coggins insisted yesterday that London don't care where the decider is played.

"Ideally, I'd have liked it in the Hyde but it is where it is and we've a fair few players from the West who have played in Castlebar at some stage," he said.

"We'll just treat it as another game, which is exactly what it is. Keeping a lid on the hype won't be easy but the lads have already been involved in three big matches and handled it well."

As London officials scrambled yesterday to get on top of the logistics and costs involved in their first Connacht final appearance, Coggins was left counting the injury costs.

Team captain and ex-Longford senior Seamus Hannon had to go to Tullamore Hospital afterwards for a X-ray that confirmed he had suffered no broken bones but his shoulder is in a sling.

Paul Geraghty was badly concussed when he was taken off and Coggins admitted that the chances of Mark Gottsche (who didn't make the replay due to a groin injury) making the Connacht final "are not good".

Irish Independent

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