By Damian Dolan
Killian Butler’s return to London colours was offset by news that the Exiles could be without captain Liam Gavaghan for “four to six weeks” with a hamstring injury.
Gavaghan picked up the injury against Wexford and was ruled out of last Saturday’s 5-9 to 2-10 to defeat to Wicklow at McGovern Park.
London face Roscommon in the Connacht Championship on 2 May at Ruislip.
“Liam is pivotal to our team; he’s our leader on the field and arguably one of the best players in Divisions four,” London manager Michael Maher told the Irish World.
“Not to have him is a blow to the dressing room.”
Butler, whose request for reinstatement following his 48-week ban last year for playing in America was approved by Croke Park last Friday, made a sensational return against the Garden County scoring 1-6 (3f).
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“Killian is a massive addition for us – it’s a huge lift. He’s a class footballer. But we’ve strengthened in one area, and lost in another,” added Maher.
Fearghal McMahon is also nursing a hamstring injury. Maher attributes his and Gavaghan’s injuries to the “impact of changing from one surface to another”.
Due to the weather and the unavailability of pitches, the Exiles have been recently forced to switch back to training on a 3G surface rugby pitch.
“It’s a big worry; you can’t constantly go from heavy ground to firm ground, and back to heavy ground,” said Maher, who is also dealing with the loss of Cormac Coyne for the season.
“Cormac was man of the match against Limerick, but went away skiing and tore ligaments in his knee. We’ve had no luck with injuries,” he said.
Maher will hope to have Marcus Mangan back for the Round 6 trip to Waterford on 14 March.
The St Kiernans and former Kerry player missed London’s defeats to Wicklow and Wexford, in which the team conceded nine goals.
Maher says the absence of Mangan and the lack of a full-size Gaelic pitch to train on have been contributing factors in the team being “all over the place defensively” the last two weeks.
They’re currently restricted to training on half of a 3G rugby pitch at Grasshopper’s RFC in Ealing.
“We can’t train properly; we can’t get our shape right. We’ve got 32 men in 45 metres of space,” said Maher.
“We have to get our ‘keeper to kick-out from behind the dead-ball line, avoiding the rugby posts, so the ball will travel the distance.
“It’s had a big impact on us the last two games without a shadow of a doubt – I pride myself on my team being defensively sound.
“We wanted to fix certain things after Wexford, but you can’t replicate what you do on a full-size Gaelic pitch, on half a rugby pitch.”
While disappointed with London’s defensive display for the second week running, Maher could be pleased with the team’s attacking intent and the fight shown in the second half.
The Exiles amassed 2-10 and also missed a penalty and spurned two other goal chances, as well as a couple of routine free opportunities.
“We fought like mad; we’ve finished strong in every game – we are fit. We were very positive; we went out to attack the game,” said Maher.
“There’s more in that changing room when we get the full panel back and we can start to train properly as the nights draw out, and we can get back on to a grass Gaelic pitch.
“But at the minute it’s difficult.”