GAA Football

The haves and the have-nots

Sean Andy Ó Ceallaigh forms part of a reliable Galway full-back line. Picture by Philip Walsh

Connacht SFC quarter-final: London v Galway (tomorrow, 3pm, Ruislip)

UP until StatSports stepped in recently, London's footballers didn't have access to the GPS trackers that even some of the higher profile clubs, never mind inter-county teams, have come to take for granted.

The Exiles' budget for the year comes in around £150,000, and with that they take the team to Ireland for a short training camp before the start of the league in January and again at the end of last month.

In 2017, Galway spent almost €1.3m servicing their adult inter-county teams. London don't have to pay for an U20 team because they don't have one, which creates a considerable gap in their pathway from underage to senior.

When Ciaran Deely played for Wexford a decade ago, they did two pitch sessions, one gym session and a match each week. That's the schedule on which London currently operate, going in against teams that are training twice a day in some cases.

The disparities between Kevin Walsh's haves and Ciaran Deely's have-nots are wide. Yet when London come out in Ruislip tomorrow afternoon to start their championship campaign as huge underdogs, there'll be a pride in what they've built.

As many as 13 of their squad, including captain Liam Gavaghan, are natives of London. The term ‘the Exiles' has become less and less applicable in recent seasons. The travel industry has changed as much as the construction one, with the availability of a hop back over the Irish Sea from Friday to Monday killing their traditional method of crop-picking.

Gavin McEvoy, Philip Butler, Aidan McGarvey, Ryan Forde, Cillian Butler, et al – the names have a distinctively Irish flavour, but the accents are distinctly English.

Their Division Four campaign didn't hit the highs of last year, when they were one win short of a highest-ever finish. They were bottom of the pile with just one win this term, some 27 places below Galway.

They will still be without injured skipper Damien Comer, but haven't been short of attacking options. Shane Walsh has had a bit more freedom to stay up the park and responded with 0-26 in the league, while interestingly Danny Cummins is their second top scorer with 4-4 despite only working his way into the reckoning late in the campaign.

Antaine Ó Laoi caught the eye as a new recruit, and even without the Corofin contingent – most notably Liam Silke, Kieran Molloy and Ian Burke, who are all likely to play some part tomorrow – they showed signs of building on a good 2018.

It's an unkind draw for London, who'd fancy themselves to give Sligo or Leitrim their fill. If Galway display a lack of mercy, the hosts will do well to get out within 15 points.

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