London football manager Michael Maher says clubs must come first and he won’t pressure players into putting the county team before their club.
Croke Park’s revised championship structure sees London play Roscommon on 30/31 October in the Connacht Championship quarter-final – the game was originally fixed for 2 May before the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Exiles have two National League games to prepare, against Waterford (17/18 October) and Carlow (24/25 October). All matches will be played in Ireland.
The participation of British teams will depend, however, on the travel situation between Ireland and Britain.
The GAA in Britain is still awaiting the UK Government’s timetable for a return to full contact training, and matches, for amateur sports.
When GAA does restart, Maher will not force players to choose between their club and the county.
“I will not ask any club player to train with the county, while their club is still involved. I won’t do that,” he told the Irish World.
“That is going to severely hamper our preparations, but I’m comfortable that it’s the right thing to do.”
GAA teams in the Republic of Ireland were free to begin full contact training and play challenge matches from 29 June.
The club season will take place over an 11-week period starting from 31 July (in Ireland).
However, the number of weeks available for the British county boards to run off its championships, and possibly league, before inter-county takes over is likely to be considerably less.
Players are due to recommence inter-county training from 14 September, but Maher anticipates he may only get his full panel together just days before the game with Waterford. That won’t alter his thinking though.
“We’re delighted to still be in the hat and I’ll make the most of whatever time I have with the players to prepare for the county season,” he said.
“I’m not going to be pulling lads away from their clubs, because the club is where you begin and end.
“I’ve always been a staunch advocate that you have to give your all to your club if you want to play for the county.
“It’s really important clubs get as much of a season as they can, and I won’t be dictating or interfering with that. If we get football back that’s the main thing.”
One concern for Maher, though, is player “burn-out”, if players are asked to play too many club matches on consecutive weekends without a break, before the Waterford game.
“I just hope all the lads come through the club campaign and we’ve got a full squad to pick from,” he said.
“We’ll then try and get them as ready as we can for the National League and Roscommon.”
Croke Park’s announcement that all games will take place in Ireland will mean the London County Board missing out on its annual bumper pay day at Ruislip.
It will be only the second time since 1981, when London were given home advantage for the Connacht quarter-final, that the game has not gone ahead at Ruislip.
In 2001, London did not take part due to an outbreak in the UK of foot and mouth disease. Mayo were the intended visitors that year.
In March, London County Board Chairperson John Lacey told the Irish World that the impact of the Roscommon match not going ahead on the GAA in London would be “massive”.
“It will have a massive effect but not only financially, but spectators look forward to the annual Connacht Championship game here,” he said.
London’s footballers have yet to register a win in the league. The closest they came in their five matches before all GAA activity was stopped was a one-point defeat away to Limerick.
Maher is hopeful he’ll have the majority of the same panel, but says he’s keeping the “door open” to any new additions who impress when the club scene starts up.
The GAA also confirmed, as previously reported in the Irish World, that there will be no All Ireland club championships this season.
Meanwhile, London’s hurlers have been drawn against Down in the quarter-finals of the Christy Ring Cup on 24/25 October.
Down won 2-26 to 0-16 when the sides met at Ruislip in the league in February. A result that condemned Kevin McMullan’s Exiles to a relegation play-off.
London retained their Division 2B status by beating Warwickshire in the play-off at Ruislip.
Unlike, the county’s footballers, however, London’s hurlers will have no competitive games to help them prepare for championship.
The same applies to Chris Brough’s Warwickshire who have been drawn against Tyrone in the Nicky Rackard Cup quarter-finals (24/25 October).
Both Warwickshire and Tyrone were beaten semi-finalists in last year’s Rackard.
Warwickshire won both of the sides’ meetings in 2018; a 3-16 to 2-14 win in Division 3A of the league at O’Neill Park, Dungannon, and then a 1-25 to 1-14 victory in the Rackard semi-finals in Dowdallshill.
The Lory Meagher Cup will be played in its regular format with Stan Murray-Hession’s Lancashire looking to make amends for their defeats in the final in 2019 and 2018. They face Louth, Fermanagh and Cavan.