LONDON will face Galway at home in the opening round of the Connacht Championship in 2019 after the full draw for the Championship was confirmed.
London and New York knew they would face home ties with Galway and Mayo respectively, as the Exiles in both countries were given preordained ties.
Leitrim will face Roscommon in the other quarter final whilst Sligo have been handed a bye into the semi final.
Connacht champions Galway reached the semi final of this year’s All-Ireland and London’s Mark Gottsche accepts it is a tough assignment first up.
The midfielder’s immediate priority will be this weekend’s London SFC final, where his club side Tir Chonaill Gaels will face Fulham Irish. Focus will then switch to the National League, before that mouthwatering tie with Kevin Walsh’s side kicks off the Championship campaign.
Speaking to The Irish Post, he said: “It is always going to be a big challenge playing against a Division 1 team, but they’re the challenges you look forward to as a footballer.
“You want to test yourself against the best that there is, and Galway are one of the finest teams in Ireland at present.”
This match-up will always resonate that bit more for Gottsche. The 31 year-old was raised in Galway and played his club football with Oranmore-Maree.
He represented the county in the National League in 2008 before moving to London in 2011.
“It’s a game we will all look forward to but it’s extra special for me,” he admitted.
“We have the league to look forward to first and when we start back in training I’m sure the focus will be to try and improve on last year. It’s a big challenge, but you want to be playing against the top players. That’s the clear incentive for myself and the younger members of the group.”
With his affinity for Galway football he is well-placed to highlight the players that make the Tribesmen tick. Damien Comer is an obvious candidate up top. But it was another forward who caught his eye last year.
“Shane Walsh has been on the scene five or six years now and he’s improved year on year,” said Gottsche.
“Any man who can kick frees off the deck with his left or right foot is a special talent. He also has speed over the ground, ball carrying ability and scoring ability. He is the complete package and one of the top forwards in the game at present.
“Paul Conroy had a very serious injury and hopefully he recovers to get back playing next year. When he’s playing, he’s a key player for Galway.
“Then you have the experience of Gareth Bradshaw there at the back who’s always driving up the pitch. Sean Armstrong has retired and that is a major loss to them, but there are plenty of young lads coming through now as well.
And he added: “The start of the Connacht Championship in Ruislip is a big occasion for the Irish community in London. Galway would be one of the main counties affected by emigration over the past 50-60 years.
“So there will be a big contingent here supporting them and I expect plenty from Galway to travel as well.”
2019 Provincial Championship Draws
Quarter-finals: New York v Mayo (A), London v Galway (B), Leitrim v Roscommon (C)
Semi-finals: New York/Mayo v Leitrim/Roscommon, London/Galway v Sligo
First round: Louth v Wexford, Wicklow v Kildare, Meath v Offaly
Quarter-finals: Louth/Wexford v Dublin (A), Wicklow/Kildare v Kildare (B), Meath/Offaly v Carlow (C), Westmeath v Laois (D)
Semi-finals: A v B, C v D
Quarter-finals: Tipperary v Limerick, Clare v Waterford
Semi-finals: Kerry v Clare/Waterford, Tipperary/Limerick v Cork
Preliminary round: Tyrone v Derry
Quarter-finals: Antrim v Tyrone/Derry, Cavan v Monaghan, Down v Armagh, Fermanagh v Donegal
Semi-finals: Cavan/Monaghan v Down/Armagh, Fermanagh/Donegal v Antrim/Tyrone/Derry