The future’s bright, the future could be London

Leading London: London captain Dave McGreevey sees a very positive future for GAA in London. Photo:Sportsfile

Leading London: London captain Dave McGreevey sees a very positive future for GAA in London. Photo:Sportsfile

There are plenty people who think the world has gone a bit mad, but here's one for you that might seem mad altogether. It was cheaper for London captain, Dave McGreevy, to fly to Knock for the launch of the Connacht senior championship than to get a train to the airport in London to take that flight. He opened up his conversation with the Mayo Advertiser telling us: "I was up at 7am for the flight in this morning and back out tonight from Knock, the trains cost me more than the flights. I only booked it on Sunday night, not bad at all at €60, but it cost more on trains to get there!"

Navigating your way around London is something that anyone who has ever lined out for the exiles is very familiar with, and it hasn't changed this year either, where they have to travel to all corners of the giant metropolis for training each week. "I mean every night you're in a different place, you get sent at the start of the year what nights you'll be training, but things change; you'll have to go and do a gym session way in the northwest which is nowhere near the guys in the southeast, and there are certain pitches you can't use at certain times in the year. When I was just driving in to the Connacht Centre of Excellence there are probably more pitches here than there are in London for us to use.

"We haven't trained in Ruislip once this year. If we're going to be training there, the hurlers would have to be there and there's only so much that pitch can take, and if you've two senior inter-county teams doing a minimum of three nights a week, that's six training sessions and there's only so much the pitch can take and there are only seven days in the week and the matches have to be played there."

The Down native made his championship bow in a game that will live long in the memories of Mayo fans for years to come. "My championship debut was 2011 against Mayo, we should have beaten them. I remember standing on the field thinking, we could do this," he said. Things have greatly changed on the London GAA scene since then, but it should be all for the better in years to come he believes. "Back then there was only one English born guy on the whole panel, Liam Gavigan, and he's still there and he's only 24, but it's great now there are eight of them and they're not there because they are English born, they are there because they are good players.

"In 2013 we started up the development squads and it's really coming into bloom now and you've Ciaran Healy who is a really good example of this. This time last year he was on the bench for the minors and for our last league game he was centre half back, so that's great to see. Every year I've been playing since 2011 there's a new team, there is no other way around it because you have guys who are only there to work and if they get a job somewhere else they are gone, so they have to forget about it. But having those young guys coming through is a massive boost and it's the way it should be, they are a very talented bunch."

While 2011 saw them come close, in 2013 McGreevy was part of the side that made it all the way to the Connacht Final against Mayo, beating Sligo and then Leitrim after a replay in a year that will not be forgotten for a long time in the UK capital. But there wasn't time for taking it all in along the way until it was done, McGreevy said. "It was at the time I didn't give myself the opportunity to enjoy it, it was all about focusing on the next game. The best moment was the replay against Leitrim, I remember we couldn't get flights over because all the supporters had booked the flights. We had to go over in dribs and drabs from Thursday night onwards, six of us meeting in this airport and having to get picked up and brought to the hotel. That was another one, we couldn't get hotels near the bloody pitch. You can't give out to supporters but you're going over to watch a game the team might not be able to get to. I think it was a week turnaround that was crazy. Looking back now you wonder how the hell did we do that, because it takes it out of you flying over. I was just lucky to be in a team of so many talented players back in 2013 and for a team like that to be smashed together at the right time, it was so lucky."

Looking to the future is a big part of London manager Ciaran Deely's plan for London and he only wanted those who could put in the hard yards on board this year, Dave explains. "The big thing with Ciaran is that he doesn't want hangers on, he wants 30 guys who are committed, no messing about, and talented as well. You have to keep the standards high and have the youth coming through. You can see what he's doing, he's involved with the underage structures along with Paddy Curtain, they both take the development squads too. Structures are really well set up for success in the future — this year I don't know."

Signing off, McGreevy was once more looking ahead to what could be good days for London in the coming years. "I was asked before what would I hope for for London this year. I want to see those young guys do well and put in a good performance and solid foundation. I went to a Connacht final, I want to see those guys get to a Connacht final and win one."

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