ONE of the documentaries in the excellent ESPN 30 for 30 series tells the story of an NFL band with no team.
One winter night in March 1984, the owners of the Baltimore Colts sent a moving company in to collect the franchise’s belongings, and at the end of the day, the Colts were on their way to Indianapolis.
But the much-loved Baltimore Colts Marching Band refused to let the music die, vowing to keep practicing and playing until another NFL team made their home in their city.
The documentary The Band Won’t Die follows their journey until Raven landed in Baltimore in ’96.
If they’re a band without a team, for the past two years the Londoners have been a team without a sport.
The last game that London played was against Wicklow on February 29, 2020. Tonight, 23 months into the day, the team with no sport will finally be able to play again.
Michael Maher is manager in 2020, starting his first season as inter-district boss.
And with the way London has occupied some kind of GAA purgatory over the past two years – neither here nor there – it must have been very difficult to keep the flames burning.
But Maher says he hasn’t even once thought about leaving. He told SunSport: “No, never, never, I’m not a quitter.
“This is something that I really want to start working on, and we haven’t even started in 2020, we haven’t started. So we wanted to get that opportunity, we were all determined to stick to it.
Most read in GAA Football
“There is only one change to the management team from 2020. Other than that, others are still involved. We all agreed that when the opportunity presented itself again, we would give it a go. “
The team flew out of London early this morning and will face Carlow in a Division 4 game at Netwatch Cullen Park at 7pm tonight. They will return to the British capital tomorrow.
But the journey back to this point is not without its challenges. Liam Gavaghan remains the team’s captain but only 12 of the 2020 team are still participating in 2022.
Maher explained: “Some of the boys have moved, some to other parts of the world and obviously the nature of the monster is that there are some changes that we have made, so that is a table. Fairly new controls, everything said.
“We have a team of 32 players and there will be plenty of opportunities over the next nine weeks for the players to take their hats off because it’s a demanding schedule when you haven’t played for too long.”
Among the notables are former Lao footballer and hurdler Cahir Healy and Donegal’s underdog Enda McCormick – who scored a stunning goal for his hometown team in the match. 2016 All-Ireland minor final with Galway at Croke Park.
On Healy, Maher beamed: “Cahir is a great addition, he’s a really good honest player and very good all around. He brings a level of experience to the board that money can’t buy.”
But Maher, the London-born and raised first to manage the inter-district team, knows their biggest challenge is the lack of games.
When the inter-county season resumed in October 2020, it did so without London.
And the Covid restrictions also resulted in the GAA continuing without Exiles into 2021. GAA’s Forgotten Team.
“It’s tough because at the start, all you’ve always hoped for is 2020, but when that doesn’t happen you start looking at 2021,” said Maher. Obviously an event not for us. “
Since December, the team has been training at Grasshoppers Rugby Club in Isleworth and Maher added: “The biggest thing that I noticed was the renewed enthusiasm among the players who had done it before.
“Look, when you play for London it’s a tough contract, you have to fly away every week and go all weekend.
“And it’s even harder to train here, you can get from Wexford to Dublin during the time the boys have to travel 15-20 miles in rush hour London traffic.
“Doing it year after year, it takes a toll on the boys, mentally and physically. So after the inter-district action for players who have played with London before, I have certainly seen a renewed enthusiasm from those boys.
“And I also think until something takes you away, you don’t realize how much it means.
“Having that hunger and appreciation and realizing that it is a real honor to play cross-county. We see that in the app and the practice and hopefully it translates into performances on the pitch. “
Since London played their last game in February 2020, their opponents tonight Carlow have lined up in seven competitive matches between the league, Championship and O’Byrne Cup.
“It’s no secret that the lack of games is going to be a big deal for us,” Maher said.
“Training was competitive. We checked each box and made sure that what was in our control we did to the best of our ability. Things that are beyond our control, such as lack of games, we can’t do anything about.
“It will definitely be a downside but one thing is for sure we will improve between game one and game seven. So by the time Leitrim comes to the city in the Connacht Championship, having matches in that league will put us in a completely different place. ”
The introduction of this year’s Tailteann Cup will also present London with new opportunities.
Maher added: “The big time, you’re going to be playing teams of your own accord.
“If you look at it, you’re starting in the round of 16, you’ve only had a few wins from the semi-finals, so you never know.
“There is an opportunity to go to the later stage of a national competition.”
For a team with no sport and no competition for two years, it will be a mixture of relief and joy when they pass Carlow tonight.
They kept the music alive.
It will be quite The Clash. London is calling, really.
https://www.thesun.ie/sport/gaa-football/8285974/michael-maher-london-gaa-league-return/ Michael Maher enjoys return to London GAA’s National Football League after two years as a sport-free team