ALLIANZ NHL DIV 2A
By Damian Dolan
At McGovern Park
London endured a sobering start to their National League campaign at the hands of Kerry, with Shane Nolan their tormentor-in-chief.
The Kerry centre forward (pictured below) put on a masterclass in freetaking, erring just once on his way to a personal haul of 0-11 (10f).
The undercooked Exiles, with just two challenge matches under their belt going into Sunday’s opener, stayed with Kerry in the first half having had first use of the wind only to fall away after the break.
Compare that to their opponent’s preparations, as Kerry arrived in Ruislip fresh from a Munster Hurling League campaign, which included a historic win over Cork, and numerous friendlies.
And it showed; Fintan O’Connor’s men were too good on the day for London, although Fergus McMahon’s charges kept going to the end and they now have an invaluable 70 minutes hurling against a class Kerry outfit under their belts.
But the condensed nature of the league this year means that the Exiles have much work to do to make up the ground in terms of fitness and match sharpness, and precious little time in which to do it if they are to preserve their Division 2A status.
London couldn’t have asked for a better start. With first use of a strong wind, Owen Shiel’s handpass played in Martin Duggan and his low shot squeezed past Stephen Murphy. Just 49 seconds had elapsed.
Duggan’s goal cancelled out Colum Harty’s early strike for Kerry. Richard Murphy’s free from well inside his own half illustrated the strength of the wind. London needed to make hay.
Alan O’Leary popped up with a brace of well-taken scores for London, and the home side led 1-4 to 0-4 after 11 minutes.
But Kerry were slowly getting into their stride with Jordan Conway, playing in a deeper role, becoming increasingly influential.
The visitors drew level thanks to Harty and Nolan (two frees) before they regained the lead with a well worked goal. From Nolan’s catch inside his own half, Daniel O’Carroll got Kerry moving forwards.
Padraig Boyle’s sublime cross field ball found Conway, and he cut inside before giving James Barrett no chance. London, though, might have felt aggrieved with Duggan appearing to have been fouled in the build-up. London may have had the wind, but it was Kerry who now led by three.
Nolan and Conway were dictating with Kerry increasingly able to pick their passes, with London struggling to put their opponents under pressure. It was beginning to look just a little bit too comfortable for the visitors.
At the other end, London’s long balls into Duggan and Cian Lordan were being gobbled up by Sean Weir, Brian Murphy and Daniel Collins. The ball was coming back at London far too quickly.
The Exiles, though, managed to keep chipping away and went into the break trailing 1-15 to 1-10, but with the wind now at Kerry’s backs it looked like being a tough second half for the home side.
And so it proved. Nolan opened the scoring with another impeccable free in the opening minute, and two minutes later Kerry landed a decisive blow when Daniel O’Carroll’s teasing ball in to the square was deflected past Barrett by Boyle.
The Kerry captain applying the slightest of touches with the London ‘keeper again left with no chance. Murphy (free) replied for London, but the Exiles would trouble the scorers just twice more in the game, as Kerry and Nolan, in particular, took over with their superior fitness and cohesion coming to the fore.
But just when it seemed as if he couldn’t miss, Nolan did, just to prove he was human after all.
By that stage, though, it mattered not as Kerry led 2-20 to 1-11 with 12 minutes of the second half gone. The final quarter would be a long one for the Exiles as the visitors continued to tag on the scores, almost at will at times.
It was, however, a necessary evil and one which will stand to the Exiles in the coming weeks.
Kerry showed no let-up as the shots rained down on Barrett’s goal, but McMahon will take solace from the fact that his side never threw in the towel, and only a good late save from Stephen Murphy denied Duggan a second goal. London were simply second best on the day.
How they respond next Saturday when Meath come to town will be the interesting thing.
KERRY: Stephen Murphy; John Buckley, Bryan Murphy, Sean Weir; James O’Connor, Daniel Collins (0-2), Tom Murnane; Daithi Griffin (0-1), Brandon Barrett (0-1); Patrick Kelly (0-1), Shane Nolan (0-11, 10f), Daniel O’Carroll (0-3); Padraig Boyle (1-3), Colum Harty (0-3), Jordan Conway (1- 2). SubS: Jack Goulding (0-1) for Barrett (h-t), Rory Horgan for Murphy (h-t), Philip Lucid (0-1) for Kelly (39min), Paudie O’Connor (0-1) for Nolan (61min), Maurice O’Connor for Harty (67min).
LONDON: James Barrett; Conor Hickey, Brian Regan (0- 1), William Campion; Darren Moore, Kevin Reid (0-1), Chris McAlinden (0-1f); Alan O’Leary (0-1), Sean Conlon (0-1); Owen Shiel, Richard Murphy (0-5, 4f), Tony Clarke; Cian Lordan, Martin Duggan (1-1), Joseph Troy. SubS: Daryl Roberts (0-1) for Conlon (49min), David Nolan for Troy (50min), Shane Kelly for Sheil (63min), Dennis O’Regan for Campion (65min), Alan Griffiths for Clarke (70+2min).
REFEREE: Peter Burke (Kilkenny).