Brian Regan is hoping for a better second stint as London captain than his first, which ended with a broken foot and the Kilburn Gaels centre back forced to sit out the championship.
That was in 2014 and by his own admission Regan has been around a “long time”. He capped his first year in London by helping the Exiles win Division 2A with victory over Meath in the 2B final in 2013 – the last piece of silverware won by the county’s hurlers.
The Exiles have clung on to that hard-earned status ever since, and this year could see a similar struggle with all of London’s Division 2A opponents hurling competing in the new Joe McDonagh Cup, with the exception of Kildare who hurl in the Christy Ring.
Despite home advantage, it promises to be a tough campaign, which opens on Sunday at McGovern Park (1pm) against a Kerry side still basking in the glow of their historic win over Cork.
Given the captain’s armband for a second time, by London boss Fergus McMahon, it will fall upon Regan to lead out London’s hurlers at the new-look Ruislip for the first time, after missing out last year.
“Obviously we’ll be going out to win every game, but the performance is the most important thing for us,” said Regan, who also won a senior county title with Kilburn in 2014.
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“It’ll be tough campaign, we’ll be playing good teams, but it’ll be great preparation for the Christy Ring.
“We’ve a lot of new lads on the panel so management will be getting a good look at everyone and seeing how they’re shaping up against good teams.”
Kerry, who were relegated from Division 1B last year, will arrive in Ruislip still buzzing no doubt from their first win over Cork for 127 years, albeit in a Munster SHL dead rubber and against a weakened Cork line up.
“They’ll be ahead of us in terms of preparation, so it will be a big test for us in our first game,” said Regan.
“Lads are looking forward to it; they’re dying to get out and play a game. And they’re all looking forward to getting a spin out at the new Ruislip.”
Last year, the Exiles only staved off relegation to Division 2B by virtue of points difference from Armagh, who made the drop instead. London finished the campaign without a win. This time around, Kildare’s visit to Ruislip in Round 5 could be the crunch fixture.
“On paper that’s our most important game in the league. We’ll have had four matches so we should be in pretty good shape by the beginning of March, and maybe set down a bit of a marker for the Christy Ring, because Kildare are probably the favourites to win it,” said Regan.
In terms of their preparation, Regan estimates London are a “couple of months” behind the counties in Ireland, with the panel only fully back together since the start of January.
For Regan, London’s focus will be on performance and improving with every round.
“It might take us a game or two to get into it, but the big thing is that we improve with every game and we can see performances getting better,” he said.
“We know we’re not going to be flying it straight away, but by the end of the league we’ll know where we stand, and have a fairly settled team for the Christy Ring.”
Just like their footballing counterparts, London’s hurlers have all of their league fixtures at home this year, having played all of their games away from home in 2017.
That included their ‘home’ Christy Ring quarter-final with Down, which was played in Birmingham. It’s something Regan regards as a “big plus”.
“Travelling does take it out of you. You mightn’t feel it at the time, but it builds up. When you’re gone every weekend you’ve no recovery time,” he said.
“Recovery time is a big thing nowadays because teams train so hard, so at least we have that this year.”