LONDON midfielder Mark Gottsche says that three wins from their forthcoming National League campaign is a realistic target.
Paul Coggins’ side concluded their involvement in the FBD Connacht League last weekend with defeats to NUIG and Galway, but the Exiles’ will expect to benefit later on in the year from their debut campaign in the competition.
Having already faced Sligo IT and Sligo, London now have four games played and can expect to be closer to optimum pace when they welcome Fermanagh to Ruislip for their National League opener on February 5.
NUIG were 1-11 to 0-8 winners against London in Ballyforan on Saturday night, while Galway chalked up a 1-15 to 0-8 victory against the Exiles on Sunday afternoon.
“The games have been massively beneficial,” said Gottsche, who played every minute of last weekend’s two games. “I think it has allowed us to build a squad that will be ready for the National League, rather than just having maybe 15 guys who are up to match speed and the rest having been sitting on the sidelines.
“I thought we played some very good football, especially against Galway on Sunday, and their goal came from a penalty near the end which probably put some gloss on the scoreline for them.
“But you could definitely see the improvements from the previous weekend. There are quite a few new lads on the panel as well so it has helped us all as regards getting used to each other. Everyone is slowly gelling together.”
Gottsche, from Oranmore, played against his native county on Sunday for the first time since linking up with the London panel last season. The 24-year-old featured for the Tribesmen in their National League campaign in 2008.
“I was a bit worried beforehand that I might be inclined to pass the ball to a fella in a maroon jersey, but luckily that didn’t happen,” he said. “But it’s always interesting playing against your own county, especially when you’re playing against a lot of lads you’d know.”
London have just over two weeks of preparation remaining before they tackle Fermanagh at Ruislip. The Erensiders, who were knocked out of last year’s championship by London, have made a good start under new manager Peter Canavan, recording McKenna Cup victories over Antrim and Queens University Belfast.
When asked if London’s expectations for this year’s National League would be higher as a result of their participation in the FBD League, Gottsche said: “Definitely. Last year there was one win against Kilkenny and a walkover against Leitrim so as a minimum requirement it would be nice to get three wins this year.
“Holding our own at home and making Ruislip a bit of a fortress would certainly be an aim. We want teams to not enjoy coming over here.”
He added: “Canavan has said a few things in the press about us beating them last year but that’ll only motivate us to prove that it wasn’t a once off. We are good footballers here in London and just because we’re over here it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get the respect we deserve.”
*For full coverage of London’s games against Galway and NUIG see this week’s print edition of the Irish Post