London football manager Paul Coggins would like to see a re-evaluation of the Johnston Rule which means that players can’t line out for a new county before playing in the local club championship.
It is a rule that makes it difficult for Coggins to bring new additions into his panel. It has previously been negotiated by London clubs playing a round of club championship games in advance of the national league campaign.
The London manager feels that this is unfair on individual players who are relatively new to London and are good enough to play county football but may not be according to the rule and hopes the GAA Congress who introduced the rule in 2012 can take this into account.
Coggins told The Irish World: “I feel that if guys come here from Ireland, they make a commitment to their club and make it very clear that they want to play for that club next season: Why then, should they not be allowed to play for London in the league? There just doesn’t seem to be any sense to it to me.
“He has to leave for financial reasons, he wants to play Gaelic football and is capable at playing it a high level, and we have that to offer to those players.”
“I think this rule needs to be re-looked at and I very much feel that the London clubs and the London county board will be hopefully discussing this and putting something forward to congress which is okay but it doesn’t really help the guys who are here at the moment.”
Under current rules, if fixtures aren’t set specifically to negotiate the rule, new players may not play be eligible to play county football until March: “It leaves me in a difficult position because as manager, I either bring those lads on board and they don’t play in league fixtures bar one or two at the end or I don’t bring them on board at all, not because they’re not good enough but because unfortunately they’re being stopped from playing their national game in this country.
“I just don’t think that’s fair to the player. It’s not so much about me or the London team. We have a good squad and a good team of players but there are guys there that I know want to train and play for London and the only way that can happen for us in the league is if we play a round of (London club) championship either hurling or football and to do that before the end of January is going to be very very difficult. The clubs did it the last few years. They’ve been brilliant: The clubs, the board, everybody has backed me as manager and London football. To ask them to do that again, and I’m not saying I won’t ask them because I might, it’s just unfair.”
Players who would benefit from a rule change would be Aaron McDonagh from Offaly and Conor Sheridan from Leitrim who have both joined London clubs.
“The only answer I can see is that lads are given the opportunity to play for London in the league if they commit to a club in London and if they haven’t played for that club in April when we play the first round of the championship, then you don’t pick them in the championship. That’s feasible. I think something in that line is what hopefully the clubs and the county board are discussing.”
For the coming season, London can expect to be without possibly up to ten of their panel from last year as Sean Kelly and Marcus Miskelly have indicated they can’t compete while Coggins could also be without the services of players like Paul Geraghty and Seamus Hannon: “We have lost players and we can replace them and have replaced them. These things happen, there’s nothing you can do about that. People retire or people decide they don’t want to continue and, like has happened, some lads go home. That’s just the way things are. We have good players in London that I have looking at also and I feel we have a fantastic squad of lads and quite a number of last year’s squad so that’s all positive.
“It’s an exciting time for us because we have a lot of new players we’re looking at. There are lot of guys who have come to me and expressed a big interest in playing for London so that’s fantastic. There’s always that positive to it.”
Coggins’ London begin their league campaign at home to Offaly on February 1.