By Damian Dolan
London are targeting maximum points from their final two National League Division 4 fixtures, says Exiles back Ryan Jones.
Michael Maher’s side travel to Waterford on Saturday before rounding off their league programme against Carlow at McGovern Park on 22 March.
The Exiles have not finished the National League without at least one victory to their name since 2007.
Jones, who returned against Wexford and Wicklow after ten months out with injury, says the team is determined to finish strongly.
“We said at training that we have to finish with four points,” Jones told the Irish World.
“They’re two winnable games – they’re the two teams on the same par as us and we have to target them.”
For Jones, a 20th minute replacement for Philip Butler at Chadwicks Wexford Park, it was the end of a very long road back from the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury which ruled him of last year’s Connacht clash with Galway.
“I couldn’t believe it; my mum and dad came down, but they didn’t think I’d get a run out either. It’s a long old way down from Tyrone, but they just came down to say hello,” said Jones.
They’ll be there again at the game against Waterford on Saturday.
“Straight away I got that feeling ‘it’s great to be back’, but you don’t really think about it when you’re stuck in the middle of it,” he added.
“It was good to get back into it and get a bit of game time under my belt.
“It was only on the flight back that I reflected on it and said ‘right, that’s nine months over and I finally got through it’.”
Jones suffered the injury in training in the week leading up to last year’s London Connacht Championship clash with Galway.
He’d already been told by then manager Ciaran Deely that he’d be starting against the Tribesmen at McGovern Park.
A scan two days before the Galway game confirmed his worst fears and he underwent surgery on 21 May.
“I knew straight away – I heard the pop. It was a heart-breaking moment, especially when you’re training all year for that championship game,” said Jones.
It was a tough pill to swallow. He recalls that Deely still gave him a jersey before the game, even though he couldn’t play.
“It meant a lot to me that the boys really stuck by me,” he said. “I was delighted that they had such a good game against Galway.”
He got another valuable 27 minutes against Wicklow, and now he wants to kick on and he has Roscommon firmly in his sights.
“My aim was to get back playing within nine months. I did that and now I want to get my starting place back before Roscommon,” said Ryan, who will continue as London ladies coach for a third year as part of Paddy Bowles’ management team.
From Eglish, Co Tyrone, Jones captained the London junior team which reached the All-Britain final in 2016, under the direction of fellow St Brendans man Joe Coulter.
He performances brought him to the attention of Deely and he brought him into the senior panel ahead of London’s All Ireland qualifier with Offaly.
He was brought back in for 2017 and made his senior London debut against Waterford in Ardmore.
From there up to Galway in 2019, Jones only missed one game – the 2018 Connacht Championship meeting with Sligo, due to a hamstring injury.
Now back, London’s defensive frailties – 14 goals conceded in three games against Sligo, Wexford and Wicklow – is an area he’s keen to try and help address.
“Obviously that’s very poor, but in the two games where we kept a clean sheet (Limerick and Antrim) we were very organised,” he said.
“That’s something I always pride myself on, trying to get the defence organised. Working with Michael [Maher] last year we did very well – we conceded very few goals.
“Hopefully we can rectify the problems and finish out the league strongly.”