Ciaran Deely knows who the favourites are in their opening Connacht tie, but his plans for the future of London football mean he is not taking the match lightly.
By Fiona O’Brien
Ciaran Deely isn’t relying on any luck to get his London side over the line this Sunday as they take on Mayo in the Connacht Football Championship. Meticulous organising and preparation will, he hopes, ensure that his team competes against what he calls ‘one of the top two or three teams in Ireland’.
Meanwhile, London county board has confirmed that the highly anticipated match has completely sold-out and no tickets will be available on the gate. Deely and his backroom staff of Noel Dunning, Paddy Curtin and Brian McBrearty are looking to change the culture of football in London, and one huge component of his reign so far has been the influx of homegrown players in the squad.
‘We are building for the future’
Deely is under no illusions over what the expected result is come Sunday.
“It’s very obvious that we are underdogs, of course we are. Mayo are probably in the top three teams, maybe the top two in the country,” he says.
“We came eighth in division four, so you’re looking at a top division team against us. There’s a huge gulf obviously in terms of class and resources and experience.”
A recent RTE Connacht Championship preview said that London would be ‘happy’ to stay within 12 or 14 points of the reigning champions.
“We’re not looking at getting or staying within a certain number of points, we are just looking at trying to compete against them.
“It’s another great game in our learning process. The chance to play a great team like Mayo doesn’t come around that often so it’ll be a really good experience for our younger players. I don’t know about how it will turn out on the day, but I think the whole build up to it in a sporting sense will be good for the lads to learn from.
You may also be interested in our interview with Mayo manager Stephen Rochford here
“If you ask me do I want to be playing Mayo in the championship, they’re probably not the team you want to face in terms of your development. But to have a really, really top team, it does give us something to learn from.
When asked if there is a possibility that London could emulate the performance that nearly saw New York shock Roscommon a few weeks ago, Deely remains practical and realistic.
“I don’t believe in fairytales. We are preparing as best we can and trying to compete. It’ll be fantastic experience for us, we won’t be buying into the whole event of the day as it gets a little bit crazy in Ruislip, it’ll be really good in regards of a very very tough game for us in trying to test ourselves against the best. It’ll be very interesting.
“Whether it is in a qualifier or in Connacht, we are just looking to compete and to improve.In the league we had great performances but a huge amount of mistakes as well. It’s not all rosy what we did at all. It’s very difficult for London then to get over the line and get a few wins. That’s the difficult part. Of course, every other team in the draw will be hoping that they face London, that they’re pulled out of the hat against them, so we want to make sure that we make it as difficult as possible for the opposition and show our quality as well.”
Deely was an important part of his predecessor Paul Coggins’ backroom staff last year, and is using that experience to work with his own team to change the culture of football in London.
His plan is to ensure that it remains stable, that migration out of the country does not mean that the squad has a complete overhaul and facelift at the beginning of every year, so that the management are left playing catych up by the time the league starts.
“We haven’t designated a structured time frame, but as a management we’ve decided that for London football to be viable in the future we need young players coming in. And especially as many London born players as possible and we’ve tried to give those lads plenty of chances, especially since the league finished they’ve had lots of games.
“I don’t know if it will be over one year, two year, three years or however long I will be involved but that’s the goal for London, to have a bit more stability in the team. That means as well that Irish lads who move over, they need to be looking at staying in the county for a number of years rather than coming into the London squad and leaving again three months later. I believe there’s no future in that for London, so we’re just trying to change a bit of the culture and build a team like that to look forward.
“The likes of Adrian Moyles, Liam Gavaghan, Gavin McEvoy and Philip Butler are top,top players and play at a very high level at inter-county.
“When we played against Cork and Wexford in our challenge games the other weekend, those lads can operate at that level which is fantastic. Then there are younger players of about 18 or 19 and it is great that there is this new crop of players coming through.
“They’re probably not ready for Division One county football but they’re certainly ready for this London squad and you might find that on television day a couple of them are pushing for a starting place or to come on as a sub, which is great for everybody, for the clubs as well.
“We want those lads to be playing with their clubs as much as possible. Since the end of the league the lads have all come back and played four club games and that’s part of or philosophy of getting the lads in with their clubs.
“I think before players might have been wrapped up in cotton wool for the interview county team and club mates might not seen you until June, July, maybe August even and that’s not what I want. Especially for the young lads, the more games they get the better, as they don’t have university or work to deal with just yet. I think outside of Ireland these lads are underplayed a little bit so trying to get them playing at club level, once they come into county training then their standard shoots up straight away because they learn from other players and management then too.
“It’s not tangible to have players coming over from Ireland just to play county football here. We want players who are playing for London clubs and are coming over for a number of years. Who care about the state of GAA in London.
“We won’t be poaching players from Ireland, or trying to get people in on a short-term to strengthen the team, that’s detrimental. Between myself Brian (McBrearty), Paddy (Curtin) and Noel (Dunning) we can set up something now straight away, it’s never too late or too early to build for the future and have something ready for whoever comes in next who can bring it on to another level.
“We are tweaking as we go along. We’ve settled on a set-up that we’re happy enough with. It’s always difficult with London because when we start the league, teams like Louth, I think a few weeks before they played us they had Meath in a semi-final in front of 6,000 people. We don’t have that.
“We are on catch-up on fitness levels, and we were trying to build a new team and a couple of players just came in to London. We’re always on catch up so it’s not until this time of year that things have settled down and our fitness levels are better. That’s the pity of championship with London, because it’s over so quickly then.
“As soon as the team have settled it’s finished in as few weeks. We’d love to get a bit of a longer time at it. Going forward you’d hope that the squad that you have this year are the basis of the squad for next year and the future, that you don’t have to keep changing players every year.”
In terms of injuries, CathalOg Greene is doubtful with a broken finger, LorcanMulvey is recovering from a hamstring injury, and Darragh Quinn is out after injuring his ankle.
“In general we have our starting line-up and then there’s a few areas with injuries and things that you have to keep an eye on. I don’t think we’ll be making any late calls in the couple of days before the game because if the lads aren’t ready a week before the game they won’t be ready a couple of days beforehand of that intensity against Mayo. Those players will get a chance in the next game.
“We were really happy with the weekend away, we got a win against Wexford. It wasn’t the strongest Wexford team but they were very good. We played a very strong Cork side and we were beaten but it was great, we learnt so much from that game. Killian Butler started against Cork and Ciaran Healy played the whole game, Alfie McNulty and Shane Buckley came on so it was a fantastic experience for them. It was like a championship game, the intensity was so high from the off so it was a great learning curve for them against such a high level of opposition.”
GAA Connacht SFC Quarter-Final – London v Mayo Sunday 29 May, Ruislip 3.00pm
Important Match Day info
Everything you NEED to know if you’re attending
MATCH TICKETS ARE NOW COMPLETELY SOLD OUT
* Patrons are encouraged to arrive as early as possible before throw in, admission by ticket only. Please retain your match ticket all times.
* There will be no tickets available for sale on the day.
* Please Co-operate with our stewards and match day Volunteers leading up to the Grounds and within the Grounds.
* Our Intention is to ensure that supporters enjoy the match in safety and comfort so please follow all safety instructions.
* Bringing Alcohol into the grounds is prohibited. If found on person it will be confiscated.
* Strictly No Parking allowed within the Grounds or adjacent roads, you are encouraged to use public transport where possible.
* Limited disabled parking is available within in the Grounds. You may apply for a pass by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
*Taxi’s/Cabs You are advised to exit your taxi / cab at South Ruislip Station and continue your journey to the ground on foot and return for pick up after match. Taxis /Cabs are prohibited from dropping off or picking up passengers at the ground between 12pm and 8pm.
* Local Buses stop outside the ground; E7 bus travels to and from Ruislip (metropolitan line) and Ealing Broadway station at regular intervals.
* South Ruislip (Central Line) is 10 minutes’ walk and (See www.tfl.gov.uk for travel updates)
* Refreshments, Food, and plenty of entertainment available within the Grounds. (For patrons arriving to attend the After Match Party (5pm) A Ground Admission Fee of £5 will apply)
The E7 BUS route stops outside the ground, as an alternative you could take a central line train to Ealing Broadway and catch the E7 directly to the Irish TV Gaa Grounds. (Polish War Memorial Bus stop) The E7 Bus runs every 20min on a Sunday until 8pm, then every 30min. You can also take the Metropolitan Line to Ruislip and then take the E7 bus from just outside the station to the Grounds.
All the major GAA GAMES and Sporting Event will be shown on big screens in the Ruislip GAA Sports & Social Club.