By Damian Dolan
New London senior football manager Michael Maher says “no stone was left unturned” in assembling a panel for next year’s National League.
London open their Division 4 campaign against relegated Sligo at McGovern Park, Ruislip, on 26 January.
It will be Maher’s first game as manager since taking over the reins from Ciaran Deely, who brought Maher into his management team this year.
Maher, who has enlisted the services of London 2013 All Star nominee Lorcan Mulvey and Martin McGrath, is currently working with a panel of 40 players, but plans to reduce that to 30 in the New Year.
“We tried every player that we thought could offer something to the London senior team – we left no stone unturned,” Maher told the Irish World.
“We made a lot of phone calls and met a lot of players, to make sure our recruitment was the best it possibly could be.”
Mulvey’s presence has been instrumental in coaxing out players from his club, Fulham Irish, who reached this year’s senior county final under manager Owen Mulligan.
Mulvey was the south London club’s only representative on the panel this year, having been persuaded out of inter-county retirement by Deely. He’d originally hung up his boots in 2016.
Liam Staunton, Ronan Sloan, Anton McArdle, Liam Turley, Chris Duggan, Charles O’Doherty and goalkeeper Andy Walsh have all been out training with London.
“We’ve cast the net far and wide, and Lorcan has obviously been a big part of that. They’re [Fulham Irish players] now fighting for their place in the panel and that’s fantastic,” said Maher.
In keeping recent years, the panel will once again have a strong representation from senior county champions Tir Chonaill Gaels, led by captain Liam Gavaghan.
“Tir Chonaill Gaels players don’t need asking twice – their commitment to the county team is phenomenal,” added Maher.
The panel had been strengthened by the return of a couple of former players. Cormac Coyne (North London Shamrocks) and Marcus Mangan (St Kiernans) are both back on board, while David Carrabine didn’t feature for St Kiernans in this year’s championship but has committed to London once again.
Among the other additions are Kiernans’ wing back Eoin Walsh, who played U21 for Galway, and clubmate Kenny O’Connor.
Tommy Clarke joins up following Thomas McCurtains’ All-Britain winning season.
“You’re always going to get a few knock backs, but the response from the players has been very positive,” said Maher.
“A lot of the players we wanted to come out, we’ve managed to get.”
On the flip side, London’s revolving door doesn’t appear to have been too harsh on Maher’s first panel at first glance.
Goalkeeper Gavin McEvoy and midfilder Anthony McDermott are taking a break after a long year with Tir Chonaill Gaels, but both could come back in at a later date.
Michael Clarke, instrumental to Dulwich Harps’ junior title win, has moved to Doha in Qatar, while former Cavan player Barry Tully has returned to Ireland.
Ryan Elliott, who came off the bench to help TCG with a county title in 2018, only to then suffer a cruciate knee ligament injury, has moved to Manchester, while the extent of Killian Butler’s involvement remains unclear.
The panel has been back in “full flow” for several weeks now, doing three pitch sessions a week in Isleworth.
Maher has also pulled off something of a “coup” by getting highly-rated strength and conditioning coach Lukasz Kirszenstein to put together the players’ individual remote gym programmes.
Kirszenstein was seen as instrumental to Galway and Tipperary’s All-Ireland hurling wins.
“To have a man of his quality and experience on board is great for London,” said Maher, who has also recruited former Kildare analyst Sean Murphy.
The biggest thing he wants to instil into the team is the belief that London can win games, having seen them lose out too many times last year by “fine margins”.
“This year we’ve got to be more focused on ourselves, while still doing our homework on the opponents,” said Maher.
“The focus has to be on us performing at 100 per cent. If we do that I firmly believe we have a really good chance of coming out with some wins.”
Maher inherits the age-old problem of a lack of challenge matches, but says he won’t be using that as an excuse. Indeed, London’s new manager exudes positivity about the year ahead.
He added: “We’ve got excellent training facilities, an excellent panel and an excellent backroom team, and great support from the county committee.
“They’ve supported everything we’ve asked of them. In particular, St Kiernans Mort Reidy, our liaison officer has been top-notch.
“It’s down to us now to be ready for Sligo to the best of our ability.”
London’s Allianz 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