Exiles captain Liam Gavaghan wants a return to London ‘golden summer’ of 2013
By Damian Dolan
Exiles senior football captain Liam Gavaghan has called upon his teammates to recreate the “buzz’ which surrounded the London county team five years ago.
On Sunday, the Yeats men return to Ruislip for the first time since London’s golden summer, when Paul Coggins’ band of brothers wrote their names into London GAA folklore, and unified a county, made up of many colours, behind the green and white of London.
Gavaghan, who made his championship debut for London in 2011 off the bench as James Horan’s Mayo needed extra-time to avoid the mother of all upsets, wants to recreate those glorious few weeks, starting with Sligo on Sunday at McGovern Park.
“There was a real buzz around London GAA at that time, and when the team went on and reached the Connacht final that created an even bigger buzz,” Gavaghan told the Irish World.
London’s skipper was amongst those stood on the bank that Ruislip day in 2013 watching history unfurl before their eyes, having stepped away from the county team due to work commitments.
The memory of that day, and that summer, has fuelled him ever since.
“At the time I was looking at it thinking I wish I was a part of it. But it gave me the hunger to get back at this level,” said Gavaghan. I got my head down and got back into the team.”
Gavaghan was handed the captain’s armband last year by manager Ciaran Deely. His inspirational displays against Leitrim in Connacht and Carlow in the qualifiers, however, weren’t quite enough to give the Exiles a first championship win since 2013, as they went down by three (3-10 to 0-16) points and one-point (0-13 to 0-12) respectively.
But buoyed by a positive league campaign, which brought victory over Wicklow and a dramatic draw with Limerick, as well as pushing Carlow, Antrim and Laois close, Gavaghan believes Sunday could be another historic day for London.
“We’re confident; we train for these big days and you are going to be confident in your own ability and your team. We’re looking forward to it,” he said.
“We went away after the league and had a weekend off and that refreshed the lads. I think we’re in a good place. Everyone’s excited.
“We did a lot of good stuff in the league. We had a great win against Wicklow and salvaged a draw against Limerick, though we could have got the win.
“We let it slip against Waterford and it was disappointing to end on that note, however, overall it was a solid campaign. We put in good performances against good teams like Laois and Carlow. We were competitive in every game, which is what we wanted.
“So we’re carrying a bit of momentum going into Sligo. We’re confident in ourselves, in what we can do, and hopefully on Sunday we can showcase that on the pitch.”
First and foremost, Gavaghan wants London to put in a “mature disciplined performance”, and that means learning from the mistakes of 2017. If they do that the scoreboard will hopefully “take care of itself”.
The Exiles had led by two and looked in control against Leitrim only to succumb to two goals in three second half minutes from supersub Ronan Kennedy – the first after Rory Mason had hit the post for the Exiles at the other end, and Leitrim broke down field.
Against Carlow, Gavaghan made it a one-point game with five minutes remaining, but the Exiles couldn’t get back on level terms.
“The Leitrim game we were there, we had them. We played very well, good football, at times, however at critical stages we switched off and conceded goals.
“To concede three goals in a championship game you’re always going to be chasing it. We have to be switched on for 70 minutes – you can’t switch off at all. Good sides will punish you.”
A sharp learning curve but with the bulk of last year’s panel still involved, a shared experience and one which Gavaghan hopes the Exiles can draw upon this time around.
“We’re in our third year together under Ciaran. It’s developed every year and we’ve got quite a few players who played against Mayo (in 2016),” he said.
“It’s only benefited us and the experience we’ve had of playing league and championship, against Leitrim and Carlow, is only going to stand to us.”
London can trust that its inspirational captain will once again lead from the front.