GAA Editor @BrianGBarry
Michael Maher: London 'bitterly disappointed' by 2020 championship omission
Maher: "The important thing now is to be involved next year. By hook or by crook, we have to try and get ourselves involved"
Last Updated: 22/09/20 12:28pm
When white smoke emerged from the GAA's Central Council meeting last week confirming that the 2020 All-Ireland Championships would indeed be taking place, the news was broadly welcomed.
However, buried in the penultimate paragraph of the association's press release was a note that London would not be involved this year - the first time the Exiles are not being entered in the Connacht Championship since 1974.
For manager Michael Maher, who took the reins ahead of the 2020 campaign, this came as a significant setback.
"Look it was out of our hands with the travel restrictions. We're bitterly disappointed that we can't complete the season, but it's one of those things and we understand the reasoning behind it," he told Sky Sports.
"It's a tough one, but we've been in touch with all the lads in the last seven days."
Although Maher was holding out hope in recent months of the Ruislip outfit still competing, it eventually became clear that their season would need to be written off.
"The good thing all along was Croke Park and Connacht Council had said they wanted us involved if at all possible," he said.
"But just the longer the travel restrictions went on, there didn't seem to be any movement there in terms the UK getting on the Green List, and it became inevitable in the run-up to that Central Council meeting."
No longer 2020 vision
Focus now turns to the 2021 National League, and although missing out on this year is undoubtedly a setback, Maher feels that partaking next season is paramount.
"The important thing now is to be involved next year. By hook or by crook, we have to try and get ourselves involved," he said.
"I saw a report last week suggesting that the National League will restart in February. Potentially divisions might be split into two groups of four. I don't know when that will be confirmed or decided. But we very much hope that the situation will allow us to be involved next year in our usual capacity.
"The thing for us, by the time it does restart, our lads won't have played intercounty football for 11 months which is going to be a huge, huge ask. But it would be better going back after 11 months than waiting another 12 months on top of that. It's vital that we do whatever it takes to be involved next year.
The important thing now is to be involved next year. By hook or by crook, we have to try and get ourselves involved.
Maher feels missing two years would be a hammer blow
"If it means something has to happen to enable us to do it, in regards to a testing regime or whatever it may be, or the location of the games, I just think we have to try and do everything possible in the next couple of months to allow that to happen.
"Going 11 months to get back to that level is one thing. To potentially go 23 months between our last National League game this year, to the following year would be a serious, serious uphill battle to get lads back up to that level.
"It takes a number of years to get players in that mindset, and get a county in the mindset of competing at a level. I'd just like to think we can be involved next year, and we'll do everything possible to be involved."
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Could quarantine rules be waived?
At present, travel restrictions are being waived for certain professional sports teams in Ireland, and Maher feels that could be one avenue to enable London to compete next season.
"If the Irish government can look at giving that dispensation because it's intercounty football, then that would be brilliant, it would give us that buffer to lean on," he said.
"See where the situation is at. Please God, the bigger picture will have materialised and there'll be no quarantine. But if there is still quarantine, I'd like to think there'll be a way around it."
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