FOR London footballers sport is always about the journey. Nearly every Exile adventure ends with a crushing bump so on Saturday afternoon it was sad to watch Paul Coggins’ team huddled tightly together for 10 minutes following an All Ireland round 1a qualifier loss to Cavan.
In the middle the truly heroic figure of Coggins walked around delivering an oration that was both purposeful and passionate. Thanking his panel, sincerely apologising to those who didn’t see action, Coggins captures what makes the GAA in London matter to so many. “I thanked them for their effort during the year,” Coggins said afterwards. “I know it ended badly. None of us wanted it to end like that. Unfortunately it did.”
Trailing by seven points at the interval London narrowed the gap to five before a lengthy delay due to an injury suffered by Cavan full-back Rory Dunne. Both managers accepted the visitors were dominant when the action recommenced. “I thought the performance in the second half was a lot better obviously. We got right up there. We were only five behind at one stage. That is the sort of thing we can do.
“The break happened. We tried to keep it going, but we just didn't perform after the injury as well as them for whatever reason. Sometimes those things happen.
“It was a poor last 20 minutes, but we kept going. Again basic errors cost us. A team like Cavan, who are a top class team will capitalise on that. They did,” was Coggins verdict.
Cavan boss Terry Hyland shared similar sentiments. “The momentum seemed to swing with us in the second half. After Rory went off it was a bit unusual that the team losing the player upped the ante. We did. In the five minutes after that injury we sealed the game.”
Hyland was content that Cavan took care of their business in a smart and stylish way. "This is what we came for to get a result. That is what counted. When you come to these venues with the travelling involved sometimes it is hard to get settled down.
"The lads were very disappointed to lose to Monaghan. We felt we were good enough. Bar maybe 15 minutes we probably were, but we didn't see it out. We will have another opportunity to play through the summer.
“This win gives us that opportunity. Hopefully we can apply ourselves in the next game and win it.”
Having claimed four Ulster under 21 titles between 2011 and 2014 the future glimmers with promise for Cavan. “We have a group of players who are ambitious,” Hyland admits. “There is no doubt about that. Us as a management have to provide the best tools to bring them forward.
“We do have to be a little bit patient with some of them. The average age of most winning teams are probably around 28 bracket. We are still maturing as a team. We have a lot of 21 year olds involved. We have good footballers with a lot of potential. It is up to us to make sure they realise that potential.”
The closing stages were demanding for London, but Coggins, wants his panel to maintain the standards reached during the past decade. “I told them to keep the standards high. Not to allow the standards to drop- to bring London forward in the future.
“I hope we will keep them. I've asked them to stay because there should be a good future there. You have good young London born players there. I think it is a good squad.
Coggins will think about his own involvement in the inter-county game in the coming weeks and months.
“It is too early to say. It has been five years. I wouldn't make a decision at this point. It wouldn't be right to talk about me. We will see what happens. It has been five years. That is something I've to look at and the Board have to look at more importantly.”