By Damian Dolan
London captain Liam Gavaghan has warned against writing off the Exiles’ chances of pulling off a major giant killing against Galway, when the sides meet in Sunday’s Connacht Championship quarter-final in Ruislip.
London welcome Kevin Walsh’s reigning provincial champions to McGovern Park with the Tribesmen 1/50 with the bookies for the win, and the Exiles 12/1.
But having made his championship debut for London off the bench against Mayo in 2011, when the Exiles came close to one of the biggest shocks in GAA history, Gavaghan knows that London will always have a puncher’s chance in Ruislip.
“You always go out to win – you never go out just to take part. You want to win,” Gavaghan told the Irish World.
“We know how good Galway are and how difficult a task it’s going to be. But it’s a two-horse race and this is what we’ve been training for since November.
“If we can stay in the game as long as we can, then the last 10-15 minutes you never know what can happen. Things get edgy and people get nervous.
“We need to stick to our game plan and have the perfect game, and hopefully we can do that.”
2011 was Gavaghan’s first year on the London panel but manager Paul Coggins had no hesitation in throwing the 18-year-old into the fray in extra-time against James Horan’s side.
Mayo were fortunate to escape with a 0-19 to 2-10 win, and Gavaghan believes the Exiles can find a similar performance on Sunday against Galway.
“No one expected that – they were shocked. We got them into a bit of a dog-fight but, unfortunately we ran out of gas in extra-time,” he said.
“But we were very close to pulling it off and there’s no reason why we can’t do it again. Ruislip is our home pitch and you never know.”
He added: “You had kids on top of the dugouts banging on the roof when you’re inside – it was a different atmosphere in 2011.
“Hopefully they’ll be a good crowd again against Galway, and we can recreate that 2011 feeling.”
On the bench when London beat Fermanagh in the qualifiers to record a first championship victory since 1977, Gavaghan missed the run to the Connacht final two years later.
So while he’s no stranger to victory in the national league, he’s still yet to taste a championship win for himself. And that’s what drives the 27-year-old on.
“Before I finish up playing I want to have had that feeling of winning a championship with London, especially at Ruislip in May. It would be perfect,” he said.
Gavaghan will lead London out for the third time on Connacht Championship day at Ruislip, since Ciaran Deely made him his captain in 2017, and it remains a hugely proud moment for the London-born Tir Chonaill Gaels man.
“I love leading the lads out; when Ciaran asked me to be captain I jumped at the chance and I’ve enjoyed the journey ever since,” he said.
“London is my county; I grew up in London and played underage here, and I’m not going to go anywhere else.
“Playing for London is the pinnacle for me, so to captain the team on big days against Galway, and Sligo and Leitrim, in Ruislip in front of a big crowd is huge for me.”
Gavaghan is under no illusions, though, as to the size of the task before London against a Galway side tipped as one who might emerge from the chasing pack to deny Dublin’s drive-for-five.
Since the league, the focus for London has been on their “set-up” and making sure they’re ready for whatever it is that Galway bring.
“Galway are going to come to Ruislip all guns blazing. They’re a top team and we’re going to have to be ready for that, and we’re going to have to be set-up,” he said.
“It’s making sure everyone knows their job and goes out on game day and executes.”
He added: “It’s a big day for everybody and as a player you want to play against the best players in Ireland.
“You want to see where you’re at in your development and where they’re at, and judge how good you are against the best.
“I’m looking forward to it, and so is everyone on the panel.”
The odds may be against it, but so too were they in 2011.