By Damian Dolan
London hurling manager Kevin McMullan says he needs to strengthen to his panel, and quickly, if the Exiles are to be competitive in the Christy Ring.
London’s 16-point defeat to Down last Sunday at Ruislip – a loss that condemns them to a Division 2B relegation play-off with Warwickshire – convinced McMullan that his current panel “is not good enough”.
For McMullan, the first four rounds of the league have been a “big eye-opener” as to the size of the task awaiting the Exiles when they kick-off their Christy Ring campaign against last Sunday’s opponents, Down, on 9/10 May.
“Lads need to wake up – shape up or ship out. It’s not good enough,” McMullan told the Irish World.
McMullan says he told the players after Sunday’s defeat that some of them “won’t be part of the Christy Ring panel”.
The Robert Emmetts clubman had previously said he would “close the book” on adding new players to his panel once the league got underway, but keep it open for new arrivals
London’s performances in the league have forced him to rethink that.
“We need to see who’s available. We need to get them in and get them in quick,” he said.
“I’m going hunting, I’m going looking for players, because that squad I have is not good enough to win.”
McMullan confirmed he’s already been in touch with two players who’ve recently transferred into St Gabriels – Ronan O’Meara (Portuma, Galway) and Dylan Towolawi (Kilnadeema-Leitrim, Galway).
O’Meara was on Galway’s panel for the Walsh Cup in January, having previously played Under 21.
Both would first need to play a championship game in London in order to become eligible to play for the county team.
With Gabriels having already played a ‘seeding’ championship game, both players would need to qualify through playing an equivalent game for a football club.
It’s something McMullan says he’s “going to get on to” the county board about arranging, but he does not foresee any problem is getting one arranged.
Down’s 2-26 to 0-16 victory over London showed the level the Exiles need to reach.
“Down are well-conditioned and they’ve got pace. They’re great at catching and fielding the ball,” he said.
“They do everything fast and they do everything right. They keep it simple; get the ball and give it to the man in the best position.
“It’s something we’re trying to get the lads to buy into, and you see glimpses of it, but we’re not doing it enough. It has to be a pass or a point – we’re wasting too many chances.
“We definitely threw away four or five points at the start, where we should have worked the ball better. We have to go back to the drawing board.”
What’s “killing” London says McMullan is the lack of suitable practice grounds with goal-posts, leaving the team with “nowhere to shoot”.
They’re currently split between Harrow School, which has a 3G pitch, and Grasshoppers RFC in Ealing, where the pitch is “soaking” and “all muck”.
“We can’t open our shoulders and strike the ball 70 yards, because there’s nowhere to strike it,” he said.