Allianz NFL Div 4 – Rnd 6
By Damian Dolan
At McGovern Park, Ruislip
In the end, Laois will have been relieved to depart McGovern Park with their 100 per cent record in tact after London pushed the promotion favourites to the wire in a brilliant ding-dong tussle at McGovern Park.
The visitors should have been out of sight by half-time, but some atrocious finishing and Liam Gavaghan’s stunning solo goal in first half added time saw London lead 1-5 to 0-7.
It was a typical Gavaghan strike – all explosive power and pace, allowing him to ride a couple of challenges before blasting the ball past Graham Brody.
The kind of strike London supporters have grown accustomed to, and almost half expect, from their captain whenever he gets his hands on the ball and gets up a head of steam.
John Sugrue’s side must have wondered how they trailed as they made their way back to their dressing room. But the truth is they only had themselves to blame. Eleven first half wides told its own story.
Laois dominated possession in the first half, despite London having first use of the wind, and created an untold number of chances, but had clearly forgotten to pack their shooting boots for the flight over.
Even Gary Walsh – blazing a trail at the top of the scoring charts – was not exempt in the opening 35 minutes.
At times, London were like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dam. But hold back the flood they somehow did.
Laois’ start was befitting a side with four straight wins under their belt. Their pace and movement from the outset tested London’s defence, and fitness, as they played most of the first half without the ball.
The visitors had already notched four wides when Walsh forced Gavin McEvoy into an excellent save – the London ‘keeper fast off his line to smother.
London took advantage to open the scoring through Mark Gottsche, only for Evan O’Carroll to level.
The Exiles were leading a charmed life at the back, and Ciaran Dunne was well placed to pick off Daniel O’Reilly’s inviting handpass across the face of the London goalmouth.
A brace of Walsh frees edged Laois into a 0-4 to 0-3 lead after 27 minutes. Shane McManus’ pass was then read by Evan O’Carroll, only for McEvoy to produce a spectacular one-handed diving save.
Two more Walsh points (one a 45) increased the visitors lead still further, only for London to stun the Division 4 leaders in first half injury-time as Gavaghan announced himself.
Frustratingly, though, the Exiles were their own worst enemies at times in the second half, gifting Laois two scores which helped the visitors edge their noses back in front.
Gavaghan and Paul Kingston traded scores before the Exiles introduced Killian Butler – not seen since round one against Carlow.
The Tir Chonaill Gaels’ man’s first contribution was to find a way past Graham Brody from an acute angle after Ryan Elliott’s good approach work.
London led by two, but it was only briefly. Walsh pointed twice and then Donal Kingston put the visitors back in front. Walsh kept his tally mounting.
Conor O’Neill set up Adrian Moyles for London’s first score for 13 minutes. It was a much-needed riposte.
As much as Laois had dominated the first half, this was now end-to-end stuff, with London going toe-to-toe with their much-fancied opponents.
Just a point separated the sides’ as full-time approached with Michael Walsh producing an outstanding block to deny Walsh, when the full forward looked destined to test McEvoy once again.
O’Carroll’s injury-time free gave Laois the insurance point they needed and try as they might the Exiles couldn’t find a third goal, which would have won it for them.
It had been action packed and compelling, and Ciaran Deely’s side can only take huge encouragement from the feeling at the full-time whistle that they could, and perhaps should, have won.
Scorers – Laois: G Walsh 0-11 (0-7f, 1 ’45); E O’Carroll 0-3 (0-1f); G Dillon, D Kingston, P Kingston 0-1 each. London – L Gavaghan 1-2; A Moyles 0-3 (0-2f); M Gottsche 0-2 (0-1f); J Moran, R Elliott 0-1 each.
LAIOS: Graham Brody; Stephen Attride, Shane Nerney, Gareth Dillon; Trevor Collins, Colm Begley, Finbarr Crowley; John O’Loughlin, Donal Kingston; Daniel O’Reilly, Paul Kingston, Benny Carroll; Ross Munnelly, Gary Walsh, Evan O’Carroll.
Subs: Eoin Lowry for Munnelly (50min), Darren Strong for Crowley (50min), David Holland for Nerney (52min), Aaron Dowling for D Kingston (65min), Niall Donoher for Carroll (69min).
LONDON: Gavin McEvoy; Phillip Butler, Marcus Mangan, Michael Walsh; David Carribine, Ciaran Dunne, Patrick Begley; Anthony McDermott, James Moran; Liam Gavaghan, Mark Gottsche, Shane McManus; Ryan Elliott, Liam Staunton, Adrian Moyles.
Subs: Conor O’Neill for McManus (h-t), Killian Butler for Staunton (44min), Colin Dunne for Carrabine (53min), Conor Doran for Begley (67min).
REFEREE: Niall McKenna (Monaghan).