Ciaran Deely says his team still have a strong belief that they can grind out a result against Carlow this weekend, despite the manner in which they lost to Leitrim in the Connacht championship.
Some momentary errors meant they conceded three goals on a day where they looked like the better team, but the London senior football manager does not think that that will play on his squad’s mind on their second outing at McGovern Park.
“The belief is definitely still strong,” he says. “I watched the Leitrim game on the Monday morning and text the players straight away saying that they would be absolutely devastated once they seen the video back because it was so clear to see the little mistakes that caused the loss.
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“But the belief is there, you don’t know what will happen until that moment. Until we gave the ball away cheaply before that second goal, we all felt like we could close out that game, and I think we would have.
“It’s difficult for us because we haven’t been ahead in games much with a lead so a little bit of naivety and inexperience probably played a part.
“But as we said in the session on the Wednesday night afterwards the best lessons are the hardest ones, and the ones you won’t forget. So I would be confident that we won’t be making those same mistakes again.”
With the likes of Fermanagh, Limerick and Cavan in the qualifiers too, Carlow were arguably the best draw that London could have hoped for, but Deely says it was the venue more than the opposition which his squad were keeping an eye on.
“For me personally and a lot of the players, the big wish was to be back at Ruislip. They really enjoyed the day against Leitrim, apart from the result, but it felt like we had a home for the first time.
“This is our stadium, and our dressing rooms and our pitch. It felt so different from the old Ruislip, so whether we drew Armagh or Carlow or Derry it didn’t really matter but a home draw was the big thing.”
Carlow are the team that London registered their sole win against in the Allianz National League campaign at the start of the year, where a strong performance at Netwatch Cullen Park saw the Exiles walk away with an impressive five-point victory. But Deely doesn’t believe that February’s result will give his side too much of an advantage as a lot can change in the four-month preparation for championship.
“The previous win gives us confidence, but I’m under no illusions about how good a team Carlow are because we know them so well. They’re not a team like Derry who we’ve never played before.
“We’ve played Carlow every year over the past few years and they’re always very good tight games. On one hand that gives us confidence, but on the other Turlough (O’Brien, manager) and the Carlow lads won’t be coming over here uncertain, they know what to do to come over and get a win at Ruislip too.
“That makes it difficult, but still we can look back at that game and say we did perform well and got a result against them.”
Carlow have had an impressive route to the qualifiers, beating Wexford by four points in the preliminary rounds before giving a good account of themselves against All-Ireland champions Dublin.
“We’ve watched all those games and it didn’t surprise me at all when they beat Wexford. Wexford lost a lot of momentum after they beat us, they won five in a row and then went on to lose three league games including the final.
“They set up the exact way I thought they should and they performed well. So they’re going to take a lot of confidence from those games.
“We haven’t played any proper matches since the Leitrim game, so it’s going to be more difficult for us.
“I think the big thing is being at home and I think the lads will probably want to set a few things right on the day over individual errors in the Connacht game.”
Deely admits that the squad and himself still look back on the Leitrim with some frustration but they are focussed on maximising their chances of a win.
“We still look at that game with disappointment. It was a difficult defeat to take because on the day I felt we were the better team and should have finished out the game.
“It took a few days to get over it. But that’s what elite sport is. You are disappointed; you move on and get ready for the next game. The frustrating thing was the wait to see who we were playing and the venue, but once we had that then we could really start focussing on the game.
“It wasn’t a game where we didn’t perform and we were searching about where we went wrong. It was quite clear what the little incidences were that made us lose. That was very frustrating to see afterwards but at least it was very specific what we needed to fix for the next time.”
And despite a few hindrances in preparation for this Sunday, Deely feels his side are focussed on the task at hand.
“Training and preparations have gone well. It’s been difficult because the players have been back with their clubs for games which doesn’t really happen in other counties once it gets to championship stages.
“And we don’t have access to proper friendly games like Carlow have. Aside from that training is going well and the lads are focussed. It’s not like we lost the game in the Connacht championship and the season is over it doesn’t work like that anymore. Straight away you are looking toward the qualifiers.
“It’s been a bit frustrating that we haven’t had as much access to the main pitch here at Ruislip as we would have liked. But we’ve had a good few sessions so now it’s countdown to the big day.”
London v Carlow
McGovern Park Ruislip Sunday 25th June 1pm
Tickets: Adults £13 Students/Seniors £9 Children Under 16 admitted Free with accompanying Adult Tickets available from www.gaa.ie/tickets and County Board Offices in McGovern Park Ruislip Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 07872 600074 for full details.