By Patrick Ward Sports
Editor of Kildare Now and Kildare Post
Scroll down for London Hurling Manager Fergus McMahon’s take on his team’s season
London hurlers’ championship is over after they lost to a stronger Kildare side, who now make their fourth consecutive Christy Ring semi-final.
They were never fully clear of the Exiles, who managed to keep in touch throughout, but once they opened up a three point lead at the beginning of the second half they never really looked troubled.
A nervy opening period saw both sides hitting a number of wides each, Kildare being the more guilty culprits out of the two, and it was still scoreless with 12 minutes played.
Both sides were fairly wasteful in possession in those opening exchanges, but London’s Mark O’Dwyer eventually troubled the umpires when he stroked over a point from close range. Kevin O’Loughlin pointed two frees to put the Exiles three clear, and at that stage there was an air of worry surrounding Kildare.
When the Lilywhites eventually did get on the scoreboard they made it count though, scoring a goal that was beautifully simplistic in the way it arrived.
Paul Dermody found Sean Gainey with a short poc-out, and the Naas man delivered a long ball into his clubmate Philip Cocoman, who batted the ball down to Mark Delaney and the wing-forward made no mistake as he raced through on goal before finding the back of the net.
Gerry Keegan, who starred in the games against Antrim and Wicklow, was on form again as he frequently found pockets of space before picking off nice scores. He did so twice in quick succession as a brace of scores from the Celbridge man helped Kildare into the lead, while Cocoman also scored a fabulous point from the left touchline after robbing possession of London corner-back Conor Hickey.
Kevin O’Loughlin was accurate from placed balls at the other end however, and it was his four points in the first half that really helped to keep London in touch of the home side when they didn’t really seem to be in the game.
Delaney struck the best score of the game after 22 minutes when he found a small bit of space on the right sideline before angling over a beautiful point from 60 yards out. London were able to bring in Shane O’Donnell (not the Clare one) midway through the first half, and he tapped over two scores either side of a Martin Duggan point to leave the scoreboard reading 1-6 to 0-8 after 30 minutes of action. Another free from O’Loughlin was cancelled out by a fine score from Johnny Byrne that saw Kildare into the break with a one point lead.
The second half saw Kildare up their shooting accuracy considerably, though there were still plenty of wides hit that really should have been scores. Gerry Keegan was almost immaculate in his free-taking duties, while he also offered up plenty of inspiration in open play too. The Celbridge star swapped scores early in the half with O’Loughlin at the other end, while Mark O’Dwyer’s second point of the game levelled matters momentarily.
Kildare upped the ante however, and three scores in a row helped them assume control of the game.
Two came from Keegan frees, while Byrne notched his second point of the game following a brilliant catch, before turning and slotting over from a tight angle.
O’Donnell replied with his third point of the game, but further scores from Martin Fitzgerald and Keegan helped to stretch the lead for the hosts. Jack Sheridan made a telling impact from the bench in the closing stages as he darted over a couple of close range scores, adding to points from Keegan who found the target from open play and a free before the end.
London seemed to run out of legs going into the final stretch, managing only two further scores from Conor Hickey and O’Loughlin. They had two attempts on goal late on from close range frees, but they were ultimately futile as Kildare held firm to see out the game and secure a semifinal spot for the fourth year in succession.
KILDARE: Paul Dermody; Ross Bergin, John Doran, Conor Gordon; Sean Gainey(L Quinn 46mins), Mark Moloney, Mark Grace; Martin Fitzgerald, Niall O’Muineachain; Gerry Keegan, Paul Divilly, Ryan Casey(B Byrne h/t); Mark Delaney(D Flaherty 66 mins), Phillip Cocoman(J Sheridan 60mins), Jonathan Byrne.
LONDON: Eoin Kelly; Conor Hickey, Luke Guale, Christopher McAlindan; Ger Mahon, Brian Regan, Oisin Gately (F Collins 14mins); Tadhg Healy (N McDonnell 61mins); Dean Gruen (P Phelan 57 mins); Mark O’Dwyer, Kevin Reid(M Murphy 49 mins), T Lawrence; Daryl Roberts(S O’Donnell 14 mins), Martin Duggan, Kevin O’Loughlin.
Scorers for Kildare: G Keegan 0-9(4f), M Delaney 1-1, J Byrne, P Cocoman and J Sheridan 0-2 each, M Fitzgerald 0-1.
Scorers for London: K O’Loughlin 0-7(6f), S O’Donnell and M O’Dwyer 0-3 each, C Hickey and M Duggan 0-1 each.
Injuries were a killer
London Hurling Manager Fergus McMahon remained positive about his side’s 2016 season, despite getting knocked out of the Christy Ring Cup against Kildare at the weekend. London were confident of progressing to the latter stages of the championship, but injuries hampered their chances, and McMahon admitted they never really recovered after conceding a first-half goal.
“Kildare are a well organised team, they just got a goal in the first half and we never looked like we were going to get back into contention,” he said. “We thought we had addressed issues that had let us down against Meath. We thought we were more focussed travelling over but on the day they were just the better team.
“We struggled to get scores, and they seemed to take their chances better. I thought the referee was quite hard on us at times. Everyone at the match seemed to think the same after the game too, that it looked like it was very hard for a London player to get a free.
“That is annoying because of the amount of time and effort they put in, they deserve the same treatment as any other county. They were all gutted in the dressing room afterwards.”
But McMahon does not feel like the whole year was unsuccessful.
“We had a great league campaign. It’s too early to tell about what will happen next year, but if the players stick around after the championship hopefully it will spur them on to improve if they’re with London next year.
“I enjoyed managing this year. I’m disappointed we didn’t get any silverware but after two seasons in charge I think I’ve learnt a lot, and more even this year around. If I do go as manager again I’ll put 100 per cent into it again.
“Injuries played a huge part, they caught up with us like they did last year. Tadhg Healy hadn’t started all year and missed the league after an injury early in the year. Brian Regan and Oisin Gately carried injuries into the game, and we lost Daryl Roberts ten minutes into the match.
“That was a big blow, he was a huge loss as he brings a lot of speed to the side and you can’t really beat pace like it. We were crippled with injuries by the end of the Christy Ring last year, it is a killer.”