By Seamus Ennis
of Irish News
In the quarter-final of this competition last year and at the same venue, London suffered a nine point defeat. That campaign had meant journeys from London to Ireland three successive weekends and on the day of the fixture they arrived just 30 minutes before throw in.
This did things differently this year and the benefits were evident in Saturday’s five-point win.
“We travelled across on Friday and completed the journey from Newry this morning allowing us to arrive rested and fresh,” said London manager Fergus McMahon.
“I am delighted with this result especially as we have a number of the team playing in Ballycran for the first time.
“It was as tough as I expected but we came for this result and the boys were terrific throughout.” Playing with a strong breeze, London opened up a three-point lead after five minutes.
Down shot three early wides and dropped several efforts short before Scott Nicholson opened their account after 10 minutes, but they were already struggling for possession. It was therefore against the run of play when Chris Egan poached a Down goal on 14 minutes.
John McManus’s effort was blocked at the crossbar and Egan scooped in the rebound. London responded immediately when Kevin O’Loughlin shot past Stephen Keith. Down managed just a solitary point in the last 20 minutes of the half.
In the same period London stretched their lead to nine. The pick of the scores was a delightful sideline cut from O’Loughlin from 50 metres. Playing into the breeze London notched the first score of the second half through Bill Walsh and from then the teams went score for score. When Shane O’Donnell scored after 19 minutes London were 10 points ahead, 1-16 to 1-6, and very much in control.
Then, for the second time in the game, Egan took advantage of defensive confusion to shoot past Eoin Kelly and it seemed the comeback might be on. Daryl Roberts struck a fine point for London but Down were gaining momentum.
Five successive points reduced the deficit to just three points with five minutes left. However, the decisive score was created by London when a sharp passing movement released Shane O’Donnell to blast past Keith. Despite the defeat, Down manager Michael Johnston was quite bullish.
“We started slowly in the game and allowed a good London team to stretch just too far in front. There were a lot of positives, especially in the second half, and we know what we need to work on for our next outing.”
That next outing is a round 2B clash with Derry on Saturday, while London host Meath in round 2A on Sunday.
DOWN: S Keith; M McCullough, P Flynn, S Ennis; C Taggart (0-1), C Woods (0-2 frees), J McGrath (0-1); S Nicholson (0-1), C O’Prey; D Hughes (0-1), J McManus, C Egan (2-0); S Dineen (0-1), D Toner (0-3 frees), P Sheehan (0- 2). Subs: F Conway for S Nicholson, A O’Prey for Egan.
LONDON: E Kelly; C Hickey, L Guale, C McAlinden; G Mahon (0-3), B Regan, T Lawrence; N McDonnell, D Browne; M Murphy, B Walsh (0-1), M O’Dwyer; K O’Loughlin (1-7, 0-6 frees), K Reid (0-1), M Duggan (0- 3). Subs: D Roberts (0-1) for Browne, S O’Donnell (1-1) for M O’Dwyer,F Collins for Reid, P Phelan for Murphy, T Healy for Walsh.
REFEREE: G McGrath (Wexford)