By Damian Dolan.
For Paul Coggins, London’s victory over Sligo went some way to healing the wounds caused by defeat to Leitrim in 1997, but only some way.
Corner forward on that Ruislip day, Coggins was part of a London team which had victory stolen from them by a contentious late penalty decision, taking with it their place in history.
With Pat Griffin’s Exiles hanging grimly on to a hard earned three-point lead, London full back Diarmuid Gordon challenged his opposite number for a high ball into the square, only for Galway referee Des Joyce to award the most generous of penalties. Declan Darcy converted and a demoralised London wilted in extra-time.
‘Daylight robbery!’ screamed the back page of the Irish World that week and the intervening years have done little to quell the deep seeded sense of injustice felt by those who togged out for the Exiles that day. Coggins included.
“I felt that day we were absolutely robbed of victory,” said Coggins. “Diarmuid Gordon took a brilliant high fielding catch in the square. The other man tried to outfield him and didn’t.
“It was the most unbelievable decision of all time and I’ll never forget it. It hurt me and it did drive me on as a player. It drove me on to say ‘we’re going to get there one day’.”
And after years of trying, first a player and then as manager, Coggins finally achieved that elusive goal on May 26 – delivering to London a first Connacht Championship win since 1977.
For more see this week’s edition of the Irish World