By Larry Cooney.
London’s historic venture into the Leinster Hurling Championship began with a 4-17 to 2-13 defeat to the hosts at Dr. Cullen Park, Carlow last Saturday afternoon. But the final margin of defeat did not in any way reflect the gulf in class between the two teams nor indeed the enormous effort from the Exiles in a game that was competitive right up to referee John Sexton’s final whistle.
While London manager Eamonn Phelan could not hide his disappointment with the result he said that it was the players’ own choice to play with hurling’s elite for the first time in 40 years rather than defend their Christy Ring Cup title. And if there was any proof that playing in different leagues improves a team’s performance then last Saturday’s entertaining encounter was a perfect example of that difference in standard there is between Division 1B and Division 2B which London are the current holders.
But the real surprise of the Carlow line-out before the throw-in was the omission of proven sharp-shooter Craig Doyle. And who knows whether or not he would ever have seen any action were it not for an injury to John Michael Nolan in the 22nd minute.
Although introduced as a ‘blood’ sub, Doyle soon displayed his sharpness with his first puc of the ball to send over a point within a minute. And after setting up Sean Murphy for Carlow’s opening goal in the 31st minute, Doyle’s second half hat-trick of goals finally ‘killed-off’ the Exiles hopes of a winning start in their first Leinster championship.
For more see this week’s edition of the Irish World