THE LONDON footballers will make history again on Saturday night when they play their opening game in Connacht’s FBD League.
London will feature in the pre-season competition for the first time after the County Board voted unanimously in favour of entering a team back in October, despite the bill for their participation likely to cost in the region of £20,000.
The panel will stay in Ireland this weekend for games against Sligo IT on Saturday evening (6.30pm) and Sligo on Sunday afternoon (1pm), before returning next weekend for their final two Group A fixtures against NUIG and Galway.
The FBD League will provide London with the ideal preparation for their Allianz Football League Division 4 campaign which begins on February 5 at home to Fermanagh, who they famously defeated in last season’s All-Ireland qualifiers.
“It has been a challenge to prepare in the last few weeks because, like every other county, we’ve been restricted by the winter training ban,” said London manager Paul Coggins.
“But lads have been doing their own bit and we’d expect them to have looked after themselves over the Christmas period, like inter-county footballers should, so hopefully that’ll pay off.
“The players were all very enthusiastic about the prospect of playing in the FBD League since it was first mentioned a few months ago, so we’re where we want to be now. It’s a great opportunity for us.
“In the past, London teams wouldn’t have been as ready as they’d like to have been for those first few National League games because the match practice wasn’t available.
“That’s why the FBD League should benefit us and allow us to hit the ground running by the time the National League starts, which is only a few weeks away now as well.”
Coggins expects to travel to Ireland this weekend with around 20 members of last year’s championship panel. Among the potential additions are Fulham Irish midfielder Lorcan Mulvey, while the likes of Killian Phair and John Collins are no longer available and Kevin O’Leary is out injured.
London will also be without key midfielder Paul Geraghty. The Neasden Gaels star is serving a 48-week ban after being sent off in their Division One SFL final defeat to Kingdom Kerry Gaels in October for allegedly striking referee Beano Collins.
If London manage to finish at the summit of Group A in the FBD League, they’ll progress to the home final on January 29 against the winners of Group B, which contains Mayo, Roscommon, Leitrim and GMIT.
The winners of that final will travel across the Atlantic to play New York in the overall decider on October 7.
London’s FBD League fixtures: versus Sligo IT, Saturday, January 7 (6.30pm); versus Sligo, Sunday, January 8 (1pm); versus NUIG, Friday, January 13 (7.30pm); versus Galway, Sunday, January 15 (2pm).