by Sean Moriarty
Paul Coggins will take charge of the London Senior Football squad for one more year.
The Roscommon man’s four-year tenure as county manager came an end during the summer after London bowed of the All Ireland series after suffering a loss to Limerick in qualifiers in June.
Coggins always sated he was interested in retaining the job but the decision wanted to engage in talks with the county board first to ratify budgets and player availability.
Following successful meetings with the board he was ratified as county manager for another season with a view to extending the term at the end of next season.
“I agreed with the County Board and it was ratified at the board meeting [on October 13]. I am in position for another year,” he said,” I spoke to a lot of people and thought long and hard about it.
New back room staff
While preparations for the 2015 season will begin in earnest next month Coggins will have to plan ahead with three key members of his back rooms staff.
Trainer Kevin Downes will return to Ireland and will take up a similar role with Cavan GAA. Likewise, fitness expert Tony Murphy will be involved in the Fermanagh set up next season and selector Paul Murphy has decided not to continue with London.
“I would like to thank all three, personally, for their dedication and commitment to London over my four years in charge,” added Coggins who has yet to begin a replacement drive, “There will be a lot of fresh faces in the background, the only old face will be me.”
London made history on 2013 when they qualified for the Connacht final against Mayo for the first time after defeating Sligo in the opening round. Although the Exiles lost the historic match in Castlebar they earned an All Ireland qualifier match against Cavan in Croke Park – two more notable firsts for the Exiles.
However last season was peppered with disappointment and a heavy defeat to Galway in London resulted in a backdoor game against Limerick which they also lost.
“There is unfinished business with this London team,” he added. “There is huge ambition in this team. We all got a taste of that last year. We also got a taste of what it was like last year [to lose early in the season]. We all know what the nicer taste was.
While Coggins first priority is success in the National League Division 4. Last season they won only one of their seven league games and ended up second-last in the points table.
The first round of the Connacht championship is set for late May, against Coggins home county, in Ruislip.
“It will be a great honour to lead London out against Roscommon,” he said. “But that is not the priority. We want to focus on the National League before we even think about the championship.”
It is hoped that London will be able to take on other counties in pre-season challenge matches but Coggins was unable to confirm if these would take place in Ireland or if a team would be willing to travel to London for a weekend. He did rule out participation in the FBD league, a Connacht-based pre-season championship that includes county teams and local third level college squads.
New rules, passed by the London County board recently, mean that county championship games will not be played until April, as opposed to January and February in recent years. This could mean that new arrivals may not be able to qualify for the County team as they will not have played local club championship football before the start of the national league in early February.
“It is not ideal but I understand were the clubs are coming from,” said Coggins. “But there are ways around this. We can play them in hurling games for example and the clubs have always been supportive of me when we need things like this done.”
Assemble a squad
Although he was never certain to re-take the job, nor was his reappointment by the board ever a given, Coggins admitted he kept a close eye on the London County senior and intermediate championships over the course of the summer.
His next task is to assemble a panel of around 30 players and hopes to have his first team meeting with players by the end of this month.
He added: “I know Tir Chonaill Gaels and North London Shamrocks are still involved in their [respective] All Ireland and All Britain championship but I would hope to have players from these clubs on board in the future. I have been speaking to players and to club managers and hope to have a meeting in the coming weeks.”
Coggins also kept himself busy over the summer by helping his London club, Tir Chonaill Gaels to the reserve county football championship.