London boss fears for future of hurling in county

London hurling manager Kevin McMullan says he fears for the future of hurling in the county, if the Exiles are omitted from next year’s National League.

Last Saturday, Central Council rubberstamped a recommendation from Management to remove Britain’s inter-county teams from this year’s championships due to existing Covid-19 travel restrictions.

The decision was based purely on this year’s inter-county championships, and does not apply to the 2021 season.

While it’s a decision McMullan believes was the correct one, the London boss is concerned that any longer-term omission from competitions in Ireland, starting with the National League, would be a “disaster” for the game in London.

“I think it would die big time,” McMullan told the Irish World.

“I’d like to think that this isn’t going to be the end of London hurling, but if you can’t play in the Christy Ring, surely you can’t play in the National League.”

He added: “When people come to London they think ‘yeh, I can play National League at a good standard’ and you can build for championship.

“But if there’s no National League it would be the killing of hurling in London.”

McMullan, though, has no qualms with the decision of Management and Central Council to remove London’s teams for this year.

“It was the right decision; I wasn’t surprised – I was expecting it,” said McMullan, whose London team were due to face Down in the Christy Ring quarter-finals on 24-25 October.

“Whether you beat Down or not, you still have to go and play Kildare or Roscommon or Wicklow, or whoever. How do you quarantine? You can’t play all your other games in Belfast.”

Concerns

McMullan has previously voiced his concerns at the loss of All Ireland club championships on hurling clubs in London – the huge carrot of pitting yourselves against a team from ‘home’ removed by the GAA for this year.

If there’s only a London championship to play for next year, and no London team or club championship, McMullan fears that the club scene in London might not have the same “appetite” for some players.

“If there was no (inter-county) hurling in London the club scene would suffer. If there’s no London, I think people will just stay at home,” he said.

The only positive from Central Council’s decision is that London’s place in the Christy Ring for 2021 is secure. The same applies to Warwickshire in the Nicky Rackard.

Whether those competitions go ahead with teams from Britain, only time will tell of course.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen in 2021, but that’s the one good outcome. It would have been massive [if London had been relegated],” said McMullan.

London boss McMullan fears for future of hurling in county
The London team which defeated Warwickshire in the NHL Div 2B relegation play-off at Ruislip in March

Had London not been removed, McMullan would have been faced with picking over the bones of a panel decimated by players transferring back to their ‘home’ clubs, in preparation for Down.

From London’s National League panel, which defeated Warwickshire in a relegation play-off in Division 2B on 8 March, McMullan had lost 12 from a squad of 26.

That included captain Damon McMullan, vice-captain Brian Hickey, Benny McCarry, freetaker Aaron Sheehan and goalkeeper Padraig Buckley.

Having already suffered an 18-point defeat to Down at McGovern Park, the odds would have been seriously stacked against the Exiles.

“That was the back-bone of the team gone,” he said.

The London manager would have had just five or six rounds of championship matches to assess any new players.

“We wouldn’t be ready for Christy Ring at this stage – our last competitive game was 8 March,” added McMullan.

“Club hurling in London, and hurling for London, is the difference between night and day.

“You can’t come out here and play for Emmetts and Gabriel’s and think ‘what a game that was’. We’d get destroyed by a county team back home.”


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