By Damian Dolan
London Ladies won’t be dwelling on semi-final heartaches past as they prepare to open their All-Ireland junior championship campaign against Leinster champions Louth on Saturday.
The Exiles have fallen at the semi-final stage in each of the last three years – painfully so against Limerick last year and even more so at the hands of Fermanagh in 2017 to the last kick of extra-time.
The focus going into Saturday, however, is just on getting out of a very tough group, which also contains Carlow.
“There’s no point thinking of semi-finals until you get out of your group,” Bowles told the Irish World.
“We’ve got a really fresh squad some of whom wouldn’t know about Limerick, Fermanagh or even back further to Antrim (2016).
“Hopefully we can get past that semi-final stage this time, but it’s very competitive – there are a lot of good teams. It’s just very fine margins and a bit of luck on the day.”
Of the current panel, Hannah Noonan, Fiona Morrissey, Allie Burke, Naoimhin Daly, Rebecca Mills, Catriona McGahan, Clodagh Brennan and Noelle Cocoman were all involved against Fermanagh two years ago.
Anne Murphy and Noonan are the sole survivors from London’s All-Ireland winning team of 2008.
London’s All-Ireland JFC Fixtures
Louth v London
Saturday 27th July
London v Carlow
Saturday 10th August
McGovern Park, Ruislip, 2pm
Luck has probably deserted the Exiles over the past two campaigns, but they’ll need some of it on Saturday if there are to get off to a winning start against a hotly tipped Louth side, which has been knocking on the door in the hunt for national silverware.
The Wee county justified their tag as “favourites for the All-Ireland” by beating Carlow two weeks ago by 15 points to take an early grip on the group.
Bowles was there to watch and was impressed by what he saw, as Louth put in a “very good performance”.
Prior to that, they made it back-to-back Leinster provincial titles with a 2-13 to 0-11 win over Carlow – player of the match Lauren Boyle scoring 1-7.
“Louth are going well at the moment and we know it’s going to be a difficult task, but we’re confident in our own ability,” said Bowles, who is in his second year as London manager.
When London and Louth met at Ruislip last year, with both sides having already secured their place in the semi-finals, the Wee county came out on top by 1-17 to 2-11. They went on to lose to Limerick in the final.
And they’ve already made a good start to 2019, finishing top of NFL Division 4, only to lose out to Antrim in the semi-finals.
“It’s a tough opener away from home, but we’ll be going over there to win. They’ll be strong but we’re happy enough with the way things are going for ourselves,” said Bowles, who says London can take encouragement from last year’s close game at Ruislip.
“The two teams were evenly matched on the day and it could have gone either way. We took a lot of confidence from that, to know that we can compete.
“Against Limerick (in the semi-final) as well, we were well in the game until the last 5-10 minutes. So we know the potential is there.”
One area where Louth will have the upperhand over London is games. While the Wee county have ten competitive matches under their belt, London have played just two, despite being back training since the end of March.
Both were against Warwickshire and the second, the provincial final, saw London rack up ten goals.
For London, it was just a case of “job done” and onto the All-Ireland, as defeat would have ended their year.
Saturday is going to be a big step up for Bowles’ charges and they will need to get up to the pace of the game quickly.
“It will be interesting to see where we are. Louth are going well so it will give us an indicator,” said the London boss.
Bowles, though, is happy that the team is in a “good place”. While London’s players may not have been getting games with the county team, they’ve been embroiled in championship action for their clubs.
There were eight London players in the Parnells team which last Saturday played Round Towers in the intermediate final at Ruislip.
“We’re happy; we’ve got 30 girls who are really competing for places and they’re making it extremely hard for each other at training,” he said.
“We still have a lot of question marks about positions, because they’re battling with each other and really fighting for that jersey. We’re going over there to win.”
London Ladies Panel
Cliona Twohig – Holloway Gaels
Martha Jordan – Holloway Gaels
Ruanne Hunt – Holloway Gaels
Caroline McCarthy – Holloway Gaels
Clodagh Brennan – Kingdom Kerry Gaels
Caoimhe O’Reilly – Parnells
Cara Usher – Parnells
Catriona McGahan – Parnells
Niamh Walsh – Parnells
Nicole Mulholland – Parnells
Hannah Noonan – Parnells
Noelle Cocoman – Parnells
Rebecca Mills – Parnells
Claire O’Brien – Parnells
Ciara Corrigan – St Anthonys
Anne Murphy – Tara
Ciara Thompson – Tir Chonaill Gaels
Denise Doherty – Tir Chonaill Gaels
Katie Connole – Tir Chonaill Gaels
Lisa Walsh – Tir Chonaill Gaels
Fiona Morrissey – Tir Chonaill Gaels
Naoimhin Daly – Tir Chonaill Gaels
Niamh Lister – Tir Chonaill Gaels
Allie Burke – Thomas McCurtains
Sarah O’Donnell – Thomas McCurtains
Avril Kilkelly – Thomas McCurtains
Brid Murphy – Thomas McCurtains
Claire O’Sullivan – Thomas McCurtains
Kathryn Canavan – Thomas McCurtains
Shona Roche – Thomas McCurtains