THERE’S been a lot made of the great distances London players typically have to travel to training; something akin to a workout before the workout.
If there’s a hook into the difficulty of being a London player then this is one with Alastair Campbell-style spin.
But you can exclude Westmeath man Greg Crowley. He stands in the evening sun of Ruislip and laughs about his favourable circumstances.
“I’m only out in Harrow, working in Labour recruitment, in accounts,” he says. “It’s handy for here, half-an-hour in the evening compared with what some lads have to do.
“And living with Seamus Hannon, the captain, makes it handier. He brings my gear for me every evening. He works in Murphy’s so he has the van. I just show up every evening and my gear is waiting for me.”
Crowley smiles at the convenience of it all. Tanned and relaxed, he carries the air of someone who might land on their feet no matter what the situation and there is some truth in that assertion.
He found work quickly when he arrived to London, got sorted fast with the Parnells club, found the logistics easy when it came to falling into the Exiles training schedule and when it came to sorting somewhere to live, well, he only fell into shared accommodation with Seamus Hannon.
“I was moving house and then Seamus said he had a room going free, so I wound up living with him. I suppose the two of us living together has made the effort stronger than what it would have been otherwise.”
But he points out that the journey has had the odd sore bump. The former Westmeath panellist and U21 has battled recurring hamstring injuries, something that hampered his development last season with London and in previous seasons with Westmeath.
His desire to play for London has come with a determined run but you could say life in Britain’s capital has developed organically over the last two years and in a strange parallel to living in Ireland, he now says football “Is the best reason for staying in London,” adding: “At the moment it’s probably the biggest attraction to the place.”
As an athlete on a team making history it couldn’t be any other way through a season that’s been underscored by celebrations, shocks and scares.
Already there’s a glut of moments that stick out and he feels some have come to define the team.
“In the Sligo game I thought we had built up a strong enough lead to hold out but the resilience we showed was amazing. That’s what really stands out from the first three games.”
Then there was the rollercoaster that soared then dipped in Hyde Park and what did happen at half-time with the Exiles leading Leitrim 2-10 to 0-2?
“We all tried to stay calm,” he says. “Obviously it was difficult because we were in a position that we didn’t expect to be in. Make no mistake about it, we thought we would be ahead, but we didn’t expect to be so far ahead.
“So the management were on to us to stay quiet, keep the head, keep focussed, re-group, but it was surreal to be there in that situation.”
Things got more surreal. He acknowledges that London lost their composure as Leitrim battled back, missing a late free to tie the game.
“But you earn your luck and this year we’ve worked that bit harder. It always seems to happen that when you work that bit harder, the bit of luck comes.”
There was a time when he lived back in Ireland that Greg Crowley believed that any London team would need buckets of the stuff if they were to do anything.
“Like many people, my perception was that football in London was weak,” he says, “that there were very few clubs over here — how wrong I was!
“There’s an unbelievable amount of clubs here and the strength of the championship last year was as strong as what it would have been back in Westmeath.”
And back in his old county, former managers and clubmates have been keeping an eye on the local boy doing good with a team suddenly fashionable.
“The reaction has been massive. I’ve had managers and mentors from past years on to me, they can’t believe what we have achieved and I suppose in many ways we can’t either. I have had so many calls, it’s just been amazing.
“I’ve been home very little since [the Connacht Championship started] but during the league, I would tell people how hard I’ve been working and saying that we weren’t going to go out in the first round by any means for the work we put in.”
Now he knows London will need to work their socks off just to live with Mayo.
“Going by League status we are bottom of Division 4 and they are top of Division 1. We are polar opposites but at the end of the day it’s 15 men against 15 men, we have done the same training as they have done so there is no reason why we can’t give them a right good game.
“I can’t believe what we’ve achieved. We set out our stall at the start of the year, we made plans and thank God they came through. We’ve had a good run, there’s no doubt about it and hopefully it will run for a bit longer.”