Leitrim v London, Carrick-on-Shannon, 3.30pm
Sunday, June 23
Connacht GAA Football Championship Semi-Final
Leitrim v London, Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada, 3.30pm
Connacht Football Championship semi-finals don't come around too often for London GAA, so Sunday's match against Leitrim in Carrick-on-Shannon is a truly novel encounter.
But London have more than earned their right to be there, courtesy of their 1-12 to 0-14 victory over Sligo in the quarter-final on May 26. That was only London's second ever victory in the Connacht Championship, and their first since 1977, when they defeated Leitrim in Carrick-on-Shannon.
A London breakthrough in the province has been coming for some time though, and Paul Coggins has done an outstanding job with the team over the last few seasons, taking full advantage of the large number of talented Irish footballers now resident in the great city.
Leitrim haven't played since their 4-19 to 0-7 win over New York on May 5, and given the scoreline, not too much can be read into that game. So discounting that one, Leitrim have not had a properly competitive match since their final round match in the Allianz Football League, which was actually against London on April 7.
A full 76 days will have passed since that 1-11 to 1-9 Leitrim win by the time the two teams take the field on Sunday, so match sharpness may be an issue for Leitrim. However, one thing that is unlikely to be a problem for them is complacency.
Having lost to London all those years ago in 1977, Leitrim have avoided an upset against the Exiles ever since. They have played them seven times in the championship since that game, winning every time, although last year just a point separated the teams on a wet day in Ruislip.
Taking that into account, and the fact that their April 7 meeting was an extremely tight affair, there should be little if anything between these two teams.
Leitrim's preparations for the game were disrupted three weeks ago when four players from their panel - Wayne McKeon, Shane Moran, Tomás Beirne and Conor Beirne - were dropped for 'breaches of discipline'. Their collective absence is reflected in a Leitrim team that shows five changes from the side that defeated New York.
Ciaran Egan, Enda Williams and Barry Prior all come into the defence, while Brendan Brennan and Paddy McGowan start at midfield and right-half-forward respectively. London have made two changes from the win over Sligo, with Philip Butler replacing Kevin Lynam at corner-back and Paul Geraghty starting ahead of Ciaran McCallion at full-forward.
Speaking ahead of the game, Leitrim joint-manager George Dugdale insisted that the issue of the players being dropped from the panel has not affected their focus. "Nobody is thinking about anything else but playing against London," he told the Leitrim Observer.
"There is no focus issues involved there. Everybody is 100 per cent focussed for London. We're confident in our ability and we know if we put in the performance we are capable of, we can get the result on the day."
With a very strong Mayo side awaiting in the Connacht final on July 21, the challenge for whichever side emerges from this tie will be great. But getting there is a massive prize in itself for both London and Leitrim, and that should guarantee an intense and highly competitive encounter.
Leitrim: C McCrann; A Wynne, C Egan, G Reynolds; D Beck, E Williams, B Prior; D Sweeney, B Brennan; P Brennan, E Mulligan, P McGowan; K Conlon, J Glancy, R Lowe.
London: D Traynor; P Butler, S Curran, D McGreevy; S Hannon, S Mulligan, T Gaughan; M Gottsche, C Doyle; G Crowley, L Mulvey, B Mitchell; P McGoldrick, P Geraghty, C Magee.