By Damian Dolan
The “countdown is on” to London’s league opener with Sligo at McGovern Park on 26 January, and Lorcan Mulvey is relishing his new role as selector.
The county’s only ever All Star nominee, for his very sizeable role in helping the Exiles reach a first-ever Connacht final in 2013, Mulvey is part of new manager Michael Maher’s set-up.
Coaxed back out of inter-county retirement during last year’s league campaign by Ciaran Deely, having previously hung up his London boots in 2016, it was the support of the players which convinced Mulvey to come on board.
“That was my major drive; it’s not something I would have wanted to get into if some of the players were thinking it’s too soon,” Mulvey told the Irish World.
“I was pretty excited when I heard some of the lads were interested in having me involved.”
It’s a new dawn for the Exiles under Maher, who replaced Deely as manager after the Wexford man’s four years at the helm.
Maher was, of course, part of Deely’s management team last year, while highly respected coach Martin McGrath is back on board, having previously been involved with the county side under Noel Dunning.
Some familiar faces at the tiller then, but it still feels like a new broom.
Mulvey believes that while it might be a small management team, it’s a got a good blend.
“It [a small team] has it’s pros and cons, but the pros outweigh the cons. There’s no mixed messages,” he said.
Maher brings management experience from Round Towers, as well as in soccer. Mulvey has been there and done it as a player, and McGrath is hugely experienced as a trainer.
Mulvey’s previous management experience comes with Butlersbridge Under 21s in Cavan and Fulham Irish ladies. He’s also been part of North London’s Feile success story for the past two years.
“We’ve no magic formula but we’re honest with everyone we deal with – everyone knows where they stand. We want honesty from the players, and they get it from us,” he added.
Mulvey, who will also do some coaching with the forwards, sees his role as a “link” between the players and management.
He’s familiar with the “demands” of inter-county football, and far from it being too soon for him to take the step over into management, Mulvey believes his recent involvement is a benefit.
“You already have the relationships with the players and they have that bit of trust with you,” he said.
One key area for Mulvey is communication, management and the players need to “understand what each other wants and needs”, he says.
The 34-year-old came off the bench against Waterford at Ruislip last year, but missed the Connacht Championship quarter-final with Galway with a hamstring injury. He returned for the qualifier with Offaly.
Although not officially part of Maher’s first London panel, it remains to be seen if the curtain has finally come down on Mulvey’s stellar inter-county career. The player himself “is not rule anything out” at this stage.
Following Mark Gottsche’s return to Galway, he is now one of only two players on the panel who know what it’s like to win a championship game with London – the other being Philip Butler.
Sligo, the side Mulvey netted against in 2013 at Ruislip as London claimed a first Connacht win since 1977, are first up for Maher’s men.
Sligo got their revenge in 2018 when they eased to a comfortable ten-point win at Ruislip.
Mulvey says preparations are going well. More fitness work was done prior to Christmas than previously, and word has spread.
“The guys who were on the fence have seen this and have jumped in,” he said.
There’s also been a concerted effort to ensure a high representation on the panel from all of the top clubs in London – Tir Chonaill Gaels bore a significant weight last year, but others have stepped up more. And that includes his own club Fulham Irish.
After a training camp in Ireland last weekend, all eyes now are on the start of the league and Sligo. The countdown is most definitely on.
“We’ll probably experiment with a few players the early part of the league, as it’s all aiming towards championship, but we’d really like to pick up a couple of wins if we could,” said Mulvey.
London’s NFL Div 4 Fixtures
26 Jan – London v Sligo
2 Feb – Limerick v London
9 Feb – London v Antrim
23 Feb – Wexford v London
29 Feb – London v Wicklow
14 Mar – Waterford v London
22 Mar – London v Carlow