By Larry Cooney
London footballers’ unbelievable championship campaign finally ended with an All-Ireland qualifier defeat against Cavan in Croke Park last Saturday afternoon. But the final margin of nine points did not do justice to the efforts of Paul Coggins’ weary warriors whose heroics in all their five games became one of the stories of a summer that will probably never be forgotten by those of us who were privileged to have watched and enjoyed every minute of it.
Making the first appearance in GAA headquarters for any London football team in twenty-five years, the Exiles played into the Hill 16 end against the breeze in the opening half. But although Cavan opened brightly, it was Cathal Magee who opened the scoring for London with a neat finish from an effort in front of the Cusack Stand after just three minutes.
Although the game was the first in last Saturday’s attractive triple-header, support at Croke Park was already quite strong and especially among the Breffni followers, who also had not seen the inside of Croke Park since 1997, and it was not long before the crowd had reason to get excited. Just before Magree’s opening score the game also had it’s first Hawkeye decision when Cavan’s Cian Mackey’s point attempt was given a second look before being judged a ‘Miss’.
However,London’s exertions with their four trips toIrelandin the past few weeks along with the six-day turnaround soon began to catch up with them in the vast stadium. As a result, Cavan’s midfield quickly began to dominate and the Ulstermen were unlucky not to score two goals when Mackey’s shot was expertly stopped by London’s experienced goalkeeper Declan Traynor and then Jack Brady’s attempt skidded narrowly past the post.
Although they wasted these opportunities, the Breffni Blues still managed to get ahead by 0-6 to 0-1 after fifteen minutes, including four points from full forward Martin Dunne’s accurate boot. By now London were visibly struggling to keep up with the pace but they bravely hung in there as their attack lived on very little service.
When London half back and one of their real stars of the summer Tony Gaughan was fouled in the sixteenth minute, Lorcan Mulvey stopped the rot with a point from the resultant free against his native county. But four minutes later London’s hopes were given a real boost when a perfectly delivered cross from Greg Crowley in the right corner was met perfectly by Paul Geraghty on the edge of the square to deflect to the net after the Galway man outjumped both his marker Rory Dunne and goal-keeper Alan O’Mara.
Although Martin Dunne soon responded with a pointed free following a foul on overlapping corner back Tomas Corr which earned London full back Stephen Curran a yellow card, the Exiles were soon back on the offensive. Two well-worked points in as many minutes from Ciaran McCallion even tied the scores after twenty-four minutes and quite astonishingly goal-scorer Paul Geraghty displayed some unbelievable improvisation to putLondoninto the lead with a thirty-second minute point.
Just where London were finding this extra gear just six days after their shattering Connacht final defeat in Castlebar was among the serious questions being posed to a young but now quite rattled Cavan team. However two inspirational points in as many minutes from corner back Tomas Corr edged the Breffni men back in front a minute before the interval before a foul on the industrious Damien Dunleavy gave Lorcan Mulvey the opportunity to tie an entertaining first period on the stroke of half-time when the score was: London 1-6 Cavan 0-9.
For the full match report, see the August 3 print edition of The Irish World