By Damian Dolan
London can hit the heights they reached against Galway when they face Offaly in Tullamore on Saturday in the first round of the All-Ireland qualifiers.
If they do, Exiles forward Conor Doran is confident that a repeat of their inspired display at McGovern Park will be enough to give London their first qualifier win since 2011, when they beat Fermanagh at Ruislip.
Doran was one of London’s bright lights – amongst many – against the Tribesman, scoring 0-6 (3f) as Ciaran Deely’s side got to within four points of the All-Ireland semi-finalists.
“I’d be fully confident that if we can produce it [that performance] again it would be enough,” Doran told the Irish World.
“Galway are one of the best three or four teams in Ireland and we pushed them all the way.
We have to take confidence and belief from that.
“Training since the Galway game has been very good – everyone’s working hard.
“Whereas in previous years, when there might have been a bit of a drop off after the big Connacht game, we haven’t had that. We’ll be ready.”
One of the features of London’s performance against Galway, along with their work-rate and commitment, was the link up play of their forwards. In particular, Doran’s understanding with Killian Butler.
It was in a challenge match against Ballyboden of Dublin in the build-up to the quarter-final that “something just clicked” says Doran.
‘I enjoy playing with Killian and didn’t think I’d ever say this, but I’ve a good relationship with him on and off the field. That helps,” he said.
Prior to that, Doran wasn’t sure if he’d done enough to cement a starting place against Galway.
Doran, from Longstone GAA club in Co Down, contributed 0-10 (5f) to London’s league campaign.
But having featured prominently early on, he missed Waterford (Rnd 6) and was on the bench for the Exiles’ final game against Wicklow. He felt he’d “drifted out” of the team.
“At the end of the league I was in the situation where I was out of the team, and thought what am I going to do?,” he said.
“But Ciaran’s been great – he’s given me real confidence and I’ve fed off that.”
Against Ballyboden he hit a “bit of form at the right time” and he duly repaid Deely’s faith against the Tribesmen.
It was Deely who brought the former Down Minor into the London panel in 2017, off the back of helping Neasden Gaels to an intermediate title the previous year.
He helped them win another intermediate championship in 2018, and reach an All-Britain final, alongside his brother Stephen.
The youngest of five boys – all of whom played underage for Down with two winning All-Ireland Minor medals – Doran comes from good footballing stock.
His second cousin, Ambrose Rogers, was captain when Down reached the All-Ireland in 2010.
But injuries saw him “barely kick a ball” between the age of 18-21 and after three knee operations and a “gut-wrenching’ time, Doran was almost “done” with football.
He came to London to attend St Mary’s University in Twickenham and it was there he regained his love for the game.
Passion restored, he joined Neasden – a club with a strong and long-standing Down connection.
His London career has had more than one false dawn. He featured little in the 2017 National League but came in for the Connacht game with Leitrim at McGovern Park.
Doran started in a forward line containing fellow St Mary’s graduate Rory Mason and former Tyrone star Owen Mulligan. Doran scored 0-2.
He played a few games in the league in 2018, but was forced off the panel by injury, and didn’t feature against Sligo.
“It’s been stop-start to say the least, but that’s the way it’s always been for me,” said Doran, who’s used his Down connections to get the lowdown on Offaly.
Down beat Offaly 2-12 to 0-10 in Division 3 of the league in Newry.
“I was really impressed with them. They were probably given no chance against Meath and they probably pushed them even closer than we pushed Galway,” he said.