Limerick v London,
All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers,
Gaelic Grounds, Saturday, 3pm
THERE’S been much soul searching in the London camp since defeat to Galway in the Connacht championship on May 25.
Buoyed by last season’s provincial final run, London were expected to put it up to a young Galway side. Then, Galway hit 3-17 to London’s 0-7.
But according to manager Paul Coggins the sobering nature of that result has led to a renewed focus in the London camp ahead of Saturday’s crucial Qualifier with Limerick in the Gaelic Grounds (3pm).
The visitors will need to ensure a good result tomorrow to make up for their display against Galway, with Coggins insisting that the team have trained well and are in a position to deliver a strong performance against the hosts.
The Exiles have not shied away from their failings since their home defeat; honesty and responsibility have been a feature of meetings and training sessions he says, something that has prompted the manager to reflect on his own contribution as well as that of the players.
“The players are very honest, very critical, sometimes over-critical,” he said in a frank conversation with The Irish Post this week.
“There is a fine line there but we would not have got there performances we got last year without that honesty.
“I am the manager and I have to look at my own performance. I have to say the right thing. Hopefully I do. I have to be accountable, but we’ve talked among ourselves we have had some great talks. Whatever happens on Saturday will not be for a lack of effort.”
In recent weeks management and players have analysed the Galway performance and highlighted areas where they feel they can and must improve.
“The focus is clear to see. We need to be more competitive and more competitive in the tackle. Looking at the video of the Galway game we got a lot of ball and didn’t make use of it. The main thing is to make sure we are up for it. It’s a big pitch in the Gaelic Grounds and defensively Limerick are very strong and very experienced.”
But so was the need for control highlighted.
“We have got to be smart and make sure we can play to the level we can play and not play underneath it,” he said. But we don’t want anyone to be black carded early in the game and I believe London are experienced enough to do this. Training has gone fantastically well. The players are very determined to do their best and to put things right. They have been working extremely hard in training — the attitude will be right.”
London have concerns over the fitness of Paul Geraghty (groin) but have been encouraged by Lorcan Mulvey’s return to fitness, so too the form of the returning Sean Kelly — one of the stars of last year’s campaign.
But again, as always, the logistics feature heavily in the build-up.
“We are very experienced but it is a lot harder for us to travel on a Friday,” said the manager. “It means lads have to take a half day from work. Our guys have to be at the airport at 6pm on Friday evening and with the game fixed for 3pm the next day. It’s not an option to fly on Saturday morning.”
Yet the Roscommon man was quick to highlight the upside of playing away.
“I am happy enough to travel. We get more time together as a team. We are together Friday night and Saturday morning. It’s good for moral. We are very used to it — we are the Exiles [after all].”
London trained twice this week and preparation has featured games against Tir Chonaill Gaels and Kingdom/ Kerry Gaels.
“We couldn’t have been given better tests against the county champions from the last two seasons,” said Coggins. “They were intense tight games and we’re thankful to the clubs for that opportunity.”
He also cited other important factors and gave an insight into the mindset of the camp ahead of the contest.
“I hope there’s support there,” he said, adding. “What can the supporters expect? They can expect a big performance. The players are ready to give it a good shot.
It’s all in place travel-wise, the lads are just so committed. They are there to represent their county, to represent London and to do it in a proper manner. I think sometimes people forget about that.”
Meanwhile, John Brudair’s Limerick are bidding to bounce back from the nine-point loss to Tipperary in the Munster SFC quarter-final.
In that game, Limerick gave first Munster championship starts to six players, while another was given his debut as a sub.
Limerick used experienced trio John Galvin, Pa Ranahan and John Riordan as subs.
Last season Limerick fell to Cork in Munster and then exited the All Ireland Qualifiers at the first hurdle, when they lost to Longford, which signalled the end of Maurice Horan’s term as manager.
Since reaching the All-Ireland quarter-final in 2011, Limerick have now won just two (Waterford and Longford) or seven championship games — losing to Tipperary, Longford, Cork, Kildare, Clare and Kerry.