By Damian Dolan
Kevin McMullan says he’s “delighted” to be London’s new hurling manager and is “looking forward to the challenge”.
His appointment was confirmed at Monday’s (9 September) county board meeting at Ruislip.
McMullan, who is in his fifth year in charge of Robert Emmetts, was the choice of the special hurling committee appointed by the board to find a successor to Shane Kelly, who stepped down after one-year in the job.
McMullan saw off competition for the role from former Warwickshire and John Mitchels manager Tony Joyce, and Thomas McCurtains coach Gavin O’Mahoney.
After a difficult year in which London were relegated to Division 2B of the National League, and only retained its Christy Ring status by virtue of beating Donegal in a relegation play-off, the most important caveat for McMullan is that the players must “want to hurl for London”.
“I won’t be begging anyone – I won’t be ringing lads two or three times,” McMullan told the Irish World.
“You’ll be asked ‘do you want to come out and hurl for London’ and we’ll work with what we have. You have to want to do the hard miles [in] training.”
It was the Exiles’ defeat to Mayo in March at McGovern Park, which ended their six-year spell in Div 2A, which convinced McMullan to go for the London job.
“I would say I was more disappointed watching that game than half the players. It was a really bad day for London hurling,” he said.
“Can I do something about it? I want the challenge. I want to try and rectify it and get London back up.
“I’ve been in London since 2005 and I’m as passionate about London hurling as anyone.”
And even though the player landscape changes every year in London, McMullan believes there’s already enough hurling talent in town for the Exiles to bounce straight back up to Division 2A.
He added: “They were a good enough team [last year], I don’t know why they couldn’t click. Hopefully I can piece the puzzle together, but it will be a completely different team [next year].
“I can’t come in and say I’m going to build for next year, because next year you’ll have a completely different team.
“But what is here is good; there are some cracking hurlers all over London. Hopefully we can get them all together and to buy into it.”
McMullan’s credentials for the London job go before him. The Antrim-native managed Emmetts to back-to-back championships in 2014 and 2015, and to the final in 2017 and again last year.
As a player, he won numerous titles with Emmetts, as well as being part of the club’s historic All-Ireland intermediate club winning team of 2007. He also won a Nicky Rackard with London in 2005.
They’ll be no room for club allegiances or bias under McMullan’s regime – this will be about London.
“London will be the focus. When we’re with London, we’re London, until we go back to our clubs. That’s going to be a massive thing to get into the players’ heads,” he said.
“Hopefully we can get everyone together and going in the right direction.”
As regards the Christy Ring, Offaly in the final at Croke Park he concedes would be “nice”. He’d also welcome a home tie against them at McGovern Park.
They’ll bring a “massive hype” to next year’s third-tier competition says McMullan.
McMullan has already confirmed Fr Murphy’s Stephen Bardon as one of his selectors. Another selector and hurling coach will be confirmed in due course. Damien Holland is on board as fitness coach.