Exiles pay price for less than perfect preparations

Exiles pay price perfect preparations
London’s James Moran in action against Antrim. Credit: Sheila Fernandes

Allianz NFL Div 4 Rnd 4

Antrim 0-17
London 0-13

By Damian Dolan
At McGovern Park, Ruislip

London boss Ciaran Deely cited his side’s less than ‘world class’ preparations as a contributory factor, as a below-par Exiles slipped to a second league defeat of the campaign.

For Deely, player holidays and a less than full complement at training sessions in the two weeks building up to the visit of Antrim impacted upon the Exiles’ performance against the Saffrons on Sunday.

“It has hasn’t been up to scratch,” Deely told the Irish World. “We gave our preparations six out of ten, and you can’t then expect to get a ten out of ten performance if the preparation isn’t perfect.

“That’s what happens at this level. Antrim are a serious team and if you’re not 100 percent focused on working hard and being prepared then you can’t expect to get two points.”

It was a message which will serve to sharpen minds ahead of next weekend’s visit of Leitrim to McGovern Park, particularly on the back of their impressive, and unexpected, win over Limerick.

Against Antrim, London struggled to find the cutting edge or the intensity which they’d shown in each of their previous outings.

Strong wind

With first use of a strong wind at Ruislip, Deely’s men led by three at one stage in the first half. Ryan Elliott opened the scoring inside the opening minute with arguably the score of the game from a seemingly impossible angle on the right, and Adrian Moyles followed that up.

When Eoin Murray led a break out and Fearghal McMahon applied the finish, the home side led 0-4 to 0-1 after 11 minutes. But they struggled to build on their good start.

Supplying McMahon and Elliott was becoming an increasing problem, while Antrim were enjoying plenty of possession and on a couple of occasions threatened to play their way through London’s heart with some nice passing and link play.

Captain Liam Gavaghan fired over a super point, but the Exiles couldn’t impose themselves sufficiently to pull away on the scoreboard. Gavaghan, Elliott and McMahon just weren’t seeing enough of the ball for London’s liking.

London’s lack of discipline would also cost them. Four of Antrim’s seven first half scores came from frees, and only McMahon’s late strike ensured the home side had their noses in front at the short whistle by the minimum, 0-8 to 0-7.

Within three second half minutes it looked as if the Exiles would be made to pay heavily for not having built a bigger lead, as Ryan Murray and Paddy McAleer pointed.

Exiles pay price perfect preparations
London’s Fearghal McMahon. Credit: Sheila Fernandes

But the lively McMahon won a free which Mark Gottsche despatched, and so began the tit-for-tat scoring which saw London draw level on three occasions, only for the Saffrons to immediately edge back in front.

Antrim broke the sequence when Murray, the visitors’ standout player, restored the away side’s advantage to make it 0-12 to 0-11, and the Saffrons were quickly able to follow it up with scores from James Laverty and an excellent strike by Murray.

Antrim, for the first time in the game, had a little bit of daylight. Lenny Harbinson’s men were increasingly looking the stronger outfit and were making London chase the game, as they kept the ball with increasing confidence.

Murray’s free with five minutes to go left four between the sides, and Colum Duffin had space to increase the lead further. London were increasingly looking devoid of ideas in attack, with Antrim’s backline able to cope with all that the Exiles could muster.

The home side were given hope, however, when Ryan Jones and Conor Doran brought the Exiles back to within a goal with two of the four added minutes still to play at the end of the second half. Was it to be Limerick all over again?

Unbeaten run

No. Lightening was not about to strike twice at Mc- Govern Park, and CJ McGouty closed the game out as Antrim maintained their unbeaten run. For the Exiles, much to ponder before they face Leitrim.

Deely added: “We were as good as them in the first half, but it was those critical moments when we had possession we coughed it up, and we knew they were going to be good on the counter attack. They were quick and their angles of running were very good.”

London will sweat on the fitness of Adrian Moyles ahead of Leitrim, who was forced off in the second half with a leg injury, and will hope to have both Philip Butler and Tom Waters back in contention.

ANTRIM: Chris Kerr; Peter Healy, Patrick Gallagher, Niall Delargy; Kevin O’Boyle, Mark Sweeney, James Laverty (0-1); Sean Burke, Paddy McAleer (0-1); Mathew Fitzpatrick, Conor Murray, Paddy McBride (0-3, 2f); CJ McGourty (0-4, 2f), Colum Duffin (0-1), Ryan Murray (0-7, 3f). Subs: Kristian Healy for Sweeny (h-t), Ricky Johnston for Burke (52min), Pat Branagan for Healy (54min), Ruairi McCann for Gallagher (59min), Sean McVeigh for Laverty (65min), Stephen Beatty for Duffin (70min).

LONDON: Gavin McEvoy; Colin Dunne, Marcus Mangan, Conor O’Neill; Michael Walsh, Ryan Jones (0-1), Adrian Moyles (0-3, 2f); Anthony McDermott, James Moran; Eoin Murray, Liam Gavaghan (0-3, 2f), Shane McManus; Ryan Elliott (0-1), Mark Gottsche (0-2f), Fearghal McMahon (0-2). Subs: Conor Doran (0-1) for Murray (52min), Ciaran Dunne for McManus (55min), Ger Byrne for Mangan (60min), John Daly for Elliott (60min), Martin Carroll for Moyles (65min).

REFEREE: Eamon O’Grady (Leitrim).

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