London hurling manager Kevin McMullan is fully committed to the job and is already targeting Christy Ring success in 2022
By Damian Dolan
London hurling manager Kevin McMullan says he’s still fully committed to the position, and has already set his sights on winning the Christy Ring and National League in 2022.
Croke Park recently confirmed that British teams – London, Warwickshire and Lancashire – will not be involved in this year’s All Ireland championship series and National Leagues.
Appointed to the role in November 2019, McMullan has managed just five competitive games at the helm – the Covid pandemic stopping his tenure in its tracks.
His last game in charge was the Division 2B relegation play-off win over Warwickshire on 8 March at McGovern Park, Ruislip. He’s still yet to lead the Exiles into a championship fixture.
“I don’t want to let it go, and say I’ve had enough. I haven’t even started yet,” McMullan told the Irish World.
“I’m dying to get into championship; I can’t wait to have a crack at Down, Derry and Roscommon, teams we feel we should be beating. That’s why I want a crack at them again in championship.”
While the decision of the GAA to exclude British teams for another year came as no surprise, McMullan says he had hoped a way could be found to include them.
But decision made, he’s now determined to turn it to London’s advantage, and use the 2021 club season to provide a springboard for double success next year on the inter-county stage.
“I don’t see it as a negative, I see it as a positive,” said McMullan, who won a Nicky Rackard with London as a player in 2005.
The Antrim and Cushendall native is already plotting, with more than one eye on November and reconvening his London panel in readiness for a return to intercounty action in the 2022 National League.
They’ll be no easing into the league this time – London will hit the ground running.
“We’re hoping this will be the kick-start we need and the lads will jump into it all guns blazing. Certain lads will be mad for it again,” he said.
“London won’t have been in the championship for two years and our goal will be to show Croke Park and Ireland why it’s worth having London in, because we are competitive.
“We can go and win the Christy Ring and the league.”
McMullan, who will again combine his role as London boss with managing his club team Robert Emmetts, plans to use the 2021 club season to assess the players in town, gage interest and get them to buy into the idea of pulling on a London jersey in 2022.
“I’ll be saying to them ‘we’ll be hitting the ground running next year and our aim will be to win the league and the Christy Ring and the league, and we want you to be part of it’,” he said.
“We want them to really want to be part of the London team next year.
“We want people saying ‘I can’t wait to have a go with London’, because McMullan’s raring to go. We want people wanting to get out of the traps.”
The new season in London is due to commence from 24/25 April, with the delayed 2020 senior hurling championship final between St Gabriel’s and Brothers Pearse an early season highlight to look forward to.
“It’s an opportunity to showcase London club hurling, especially with the London 125 commemorations, put London club hurling back on the map, promote it more, and really push on,” says McMullan.
“I think the club championship this year is going to be brilliant and I’m really looking forward to it. Everyone’s just really eager to get back hurling – they’re mad to get going.”
McMullan intends to take in as many games as possible over the next few months, so by November he’ll have a clear panel in his mind to start London training with.
“Players can concentrate on their [club] championships here with no distractions, and then come November we can build our team,” he adds.
“My idea would be to pick the team in my head as the year goes on, so come November I’ll know what lads can do.”
That will form the nucleus of the team he carries forward into the 2022 National League, although the door won’t be completely shut on any new players who arrive into town after that, but he wants to keep those to a minimum.
“While in previous years, London only really started back in January, and used the league to gel an ever-changing squad, this year will be different,” says McMullan.
“We’ve got loads of time to get venues sorted out, book places, know our plan and get back training in November.”