WE catch up with Seamus Hannon on the London press night down in the corner of the Ruislip field.
A shoulder injury is preventing him from training tonight. The damage was done just before half-time in the replay against Leitrim.
“I wasn’t one blessed with weight and I hit a man that had 15 or 20 kilos on me,” he says, adding that the injury is improving substantially and he expects to be fit to face Mayo.
Mayo. In Castlebar. In a Connacht final. It will be, says Hannon, the biggest game of his life — same as it will be for most of the team.
“This is what you dream of,” he says. “There’s a trophy there at stake. Where else do you want to be on a Sunday evening?”
London’s chances of beating Mayo in Sunday are pitched at somewhere between slim and remote. Bookmakers are offering 33/1 on the home side, 1/500 for the visitors.
Hannon is not concerned with betting prices though. He has beaten Mayo before in the championship — with Longford in 2010 — and will take the field aiming to do the same at the weekend.
He says: “We all know the quality Mayo hold, but more important, we know the quality we have. We’ll focus on ourselves. We’ll focus on our gameplan and we’ll bring the game to them.
We’re not going to sit back. If you sit back against Mayo you’ll be absolutely trounced. We’re not going to do that. You play with freedom. What have you got to lose?
“We won’t be overawed. The way we’re set up and the training we’ve done, we’re trained that you can’t play badly. The system we have, you know what you have to do and you just keep doing it. It all comes down to hard work at the end of the day.”
It’s hard work on and off the football field. As Hannon points out, GAA is important and the decision to come to London ahead of places like Canada and Australia was informed by the chance to continue to play the game at the highest level.
The primary reason for living in the English capital for him and his teammates, though, is employment. At home, genuine opportunity is scarce. Here, for a site engineer with Murphy Group like himself, there is any amount of it.
He arrived in October 2010, and like the rest of us, struggles to account for the passage of time.
“It flies past,” he says. “This city never stops. You just keep working, getting to the weekend where you play football and before you know it, it’s three years later.”
During that time, London’s status in the GAA world has risen immeasurably. And during that time the senior hurlers and footballers have had plenty of impediments to their progress, from winter championship games to a bar on challenge matches.
The London response, says Hannon, has been pragmatic.
“Those are the rules we have, you can understand it from the GAA’s point of view,” he says. “They make the rules, we get on with it. I’m sure they have their reasons behind it. It makes things difficult, but you just get on with it, you get used to it.”
Asked whether the adversary has bonded the team more, he says: “There have been obstacles, but we don’t need obstacles to unify us. I don’t think you’ll find a squad as together as that squad down there. There’s huge heart, huge commitment. We’re the best of friends. So we’ll take the knocks but we’ll keep climbing over those walls.”
The bond that exists is down to the amount of time the players spend together.
“Too much time,” says Hannon laughing. “I actually live with the wing-half forward [Greg Crowley] and I’m ferrying a couple of them back home after training. You spend more time with them than you would your housemates or your girlfriend or family, it’s crazy.
“One of the big things we have in common is we all made that step to leave our homes and our families to come over here. We all pull together that way.
“Lads really help each other out, if someone is trying to get set up with a house or look for a job. It’s a huge network. You make friends for life over here.”
As captain, Hannon is the leader of that bunch but stresses that his role could easily be reduced to stepping forward for the coin toss, such is the abundance of forthright characters among the number.
“I say my piece but the beauty of this squad is the absolutely massive leaders there. We’re all ambitious people, we’re all high achievers, we’ve all left home to get jobs, we’re all in good jobs, we’re all out here, putting huge effort into it… there’s great men in this team.”
How great? We’ll know by around 3.15pm in Castlebar on Sunday. As the man says: “Where else would you want to be?”