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London v Sligo
GAA Connacht SFC
Sunday May 26, 2.30pm
THIRTY-SIX Years is a long time to wait for a Connacht championship victory. The bookmakers will give you 2/5 on that becoming 37 years.
London are a 5/2 shot to win a first Connacht SFC game since 1977 – not overly attractive odds given their record in this competition.
The feeling persists that last May against an emigration-depleted Leitrim outfit represented the best chance of breaking the cycle of defeat in many a short season.
Sligo, a division higher and having appeared in two of the past three Connacht finals, represent a significantly sterner challenge.
Yet London do not enter this game without hope. The Yeats County have certainly not been poetry in motion this year.
They had to hustle to avoid relegation to Division Four, a final-day four-point victory over Wicklow guaranteeing their safety.
That was only their second League win of 2013. The other came against Antrim back in early February. London, remember, were a few dodgy decisions away from beating Antrim themselves in last season’s qualifiers so it is not like Sunday’s rivals inhabit different stratospheres.
London have hinted at a big performance throughout the League, only really delivering sporadically. They have been competitive though, having beaten Waterford and lost to Carlow, Limerick and Leitrim by a kick of the ball.
A lower than usual player turnover has been pivotal to the Exiles’ progress. Also, a star performer from 2011 is back in the fold – Paul Geraghty returns after a lengthy suspension.
Geraghty has the experience and ability to make an impact. Alongside the likes of Lorcan Mulvey (if fit) and Caolan Doyle, he can give London the physical presence and muscle to press forward and give the likes of Mark Gottsche, Eoin O’Neill (if fit), Llyod Colfer and Cathal Magee the chance to get scores.
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Sligo approach this game is the almost unnatural state of being without the great Eamonn O’Hara. Still, they pack a punch in the form of midfielder Justin Kilcullen. Long-serving Charlie Harrison and Ross Donovan will marshall the defensive effort and, up front, Adrian Marren carriers a constant threat.
London manager Paul Coggins says: “We have respect for Sligo, obviously. They are a Division Three side, but we will be confident in our own ability and we will concentrate on our own game.
“If we give the performance that I hope we give and everything goes right between here and there and we get a bit of luck on the day, then we have a chance. No more and no less than a chance.”
The question is whether or not they can take that chance. Given Sligo’s richer pedigree and position on a higher rung of the footballing ladder you would have to back them at 2/5.
Still, we believe London are progressing, inching towards a place where they can deliver a big performance. That day can be, must be, this Sunday.