Mark Gottsche has warned London that they must get amongst the goals if they are to claim a first Connacht Championship win on home soil. The Exiles scored five goals during the National League but all bar one of those came against cannon-fodder Kilkenny.
The other came in their opening game in Limerick and midfielder Gottsche, whose performances were one of the highlights of a poor league campaign, admits they must capitalise on any goal chances they create against Leitrim.
“Goals are going to be vital,” said Gottsche, who is also employed by London GAA as a development officer, “We didn’t score a lot of goals through the league and that’s something we’re working hard on. Obviously, you can’t be going for goal all the time during a game, but when the opportunities are created, we need to have the killer instinct to go and take them.”
A native of Oranmore in Galway, Gottsche praised the London County Board and clubs for their handling of the infamous ‘Seanie Johnston rule’ which threatened to leave their championship preparations in tatters. It allowed the players to keep focused on the job at hand, but Gottsche doesn’t feel any extra motivation to prove Croke Park wrong following their controversial ruling.
“I don’t know if there needs to be a point proven about the ruling,” he said. “Congress voted it in; we’re just going to have to accept it. Our motivation is to go and win a Connacht Championship game. I don’t think we need any more than that. Has it tightened up as a group? We’re a fairly tight crew anyways. We’ve been training together since January.
“There are new lads in, but there are big characters in the squad who help gel everyone together. Lads like Lorcan Mulvey, Kevin O’Leary and Sean McVeigh – they’re great talkers and demand high standards at every training session. I know this is Lorcan’s first year but he’s played with Cavan, and it’s great to see people like him stepping up and talking to new lads.
“There’s a great bond, and when you’ve leaders in your squad it’s much easier to get motivated for training.”
Gottsche played a pivotal role when London took Mayo to extra-time and defeated Fermanagh last summer, but he insists none of the players are looking back on past glories. The visit of Leitrim presents them with the chance to make further history, and they’re determined to grab it with both hands.
“We’re not playing football for London just to turn up for one game in June. We want to win and do the best for the county. Last year has been and gone; we’ve got to forget about it and move on. It’s a whole new year. We’re going to have to perform even better because – no disrespect to Leitrim - we might be going in as favourites on the back of last year’s performances.
“We’re going to have to keep our heads down and be ready for a battle, because that’s what it’s going to be. Leitrim are going to come over here and determined not to be the team that loses to London.”
Like London, Leitrim have endured a high number of player turnover from last year. Emigration has hit them hard, with rumours of low numbers at training suggesting problems within the camp. Despite this, Gottsche is experiencing a serious test, and believes the first quarter will be crucial.
“At inter-county level, every team has top quality players,” he said, “and every county has their own problems and issues that they need to get around. We have to start well. Our performances were a bit patchy during the league. We were playing well for 20 minutes, and then letting the other team into it.
“One game that sticks in my mind is Wicklow, where we started excellently but then let them get back into it and open up a lead. We were fighting to get back from then. We have to produce a 70-minute performance, and maybe even more than that.”