By Damian Dolan
London Ladies manager Paddy Bowles would like to see more games for the team and would welcome a return to National League competition.
The last time London took part in the league was in 2008, when they went on to win the junior championship.
The Exiles have also previously competed in the Leinster junior championship, reaching the final in 2013. They did not compete in the British championship this year.
In stark contrast to their rivals, London’s preparations were limited to in-house games and challenge matches against London club teams.
“The more games London can play against better teams, you’re obviously always going to develop in a more positive way,” Bowles told the Irish World, following London’s junior All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Limerick.
“We’ve played three really good games this year, but the likes of Limerick and Louth are coming off 10 or 11 league and provincial games of really high-quality football.
“The girls are in great shape, but there’s a massive difference between being fit and match fit.
“It’s a big thing that would help us, but this year it was just a kick of the ball. We know we weren’t far off it.”
Bowles pointed to Limerick’s second half penalty as the game’s turning point in Mallow, with the Treaty girls’ extra “experience” coming to the fore thereafter.
He said: “If the girls had more exposure to playing against the likes of Limerick, Antrim and Louth in the National League each year it would develop them as players.”
As well as giving the players more experience of playing together as a team, Bowles says the league would adjust them to the “high intensity” demands of championship football.
However, he’s fully aware of the “huge cost implications” associated with entering the National League or a return to the Leinster junior championship, which London reached the final of in 2013.
London received €1,000 in funding from the Ladies Gaelic Football Association towards each of its three championship games in Ireland, with the cost of each trip ranging from between £6,000-£10,000.
But a National League or provincial competition could make all the difference for Bowles, with London having fallen at the semi-final hurdle in each of the last three years.
“The girls have done phenomenally well, and they were incredibly unlucky last year against Fermanagh, but it may just get London teams over the line,” said Bowles.
“That’s how you improve, by playing against these teams week in, week out. It would definitely be an advantage to us.
“It’s something we need to sit down and explore. How do we bring more money on board and try to develop the whole thing a bit more, like the men?
“There is potentially a big number of the squad that will be around again next year. There’s huge positives and a really good base for them to challenge.
“This year we gave it a really good shot and I couldn’t fault the girls. Their attitude was fantastic, and just a bit of luck at different times. The [final] scoreline didn’t do justice to their effort.
“The girls are very proud of what they did this year. They came very close and I’m sure they’ll come back flying at it next year.”