Christy Ring Cup – Round 2A
By Larry Cooney at Owenbeg
London’s hurlers were brought right back down to earth at Owenbeg last Saturday afternoon with a one point defeat by hosts Derry that denied them a semi-final place in this year’s Christy Ring Cup. The impressive Oakleafers now join Kerry in the last four for the first time while the Exiles now face an extra quarter-final game against Down this weekend and if they progress, Kerry await them in the semi-final in Tralee on 30 May. Meanwhile in the other semi-final Derry will now host either Meath or holders Kildare also on the same day.
So if London are to emulate their 2012 Christy Ring Cup final success, they will therefore need to win their next three games in consecutive weeks for what will be their sixth consecutive game in as many weeks since their campaign began against Kildare on 2 May. And on the evidence of the Exiles’ tired and generally ‘flat’ display last Saturday, it is hard to be optimistic about their prospects of lifting their second Christy Ring Cup on 6 June.
London fade after sparkling opening quarter
Playing in their third game in consecutive weeks, London were surprisingly assertive in the opening exchanges as they defended the Foreglen Road end in the first half. And despite the set back of having to line out without marquee forward Martin Duggan, scorer of three goals in the Kildare replay, London were soon dominating possession in the midfield area.
And after Peter Phelan provided the assist, it was midfielder Neil Rogers who opened the scoring in the second minute. Two minutes later Phelan hit the first of his six successful frees to double the visitors’ advantage after a foul on Nollaig Brophy.
Brophy had been enjoying the better of his clash with Conor McSorley but as the half progressed the Derry half back line became far more formidable and difficult to penetrate. However further points from Tadhg Healy, Duggan’s replacement, and another Peter Phelan pointed free gave London a deserved four point cushion after thirteen minutes.
But after a Paul Cleary point opened Derry’s account a minute later, the momentum was not long changing in favour of the hosts. A Ruairi Convery pointed free following a foul on Aaron Kelly halved the deficit for Derry two minutes later as the weather conditions also deteriorated with a shower of rain and strong wind replacing the early sunshine at the throw-in.
London were now clearly on the back foot and when Patrick McCloskey left the minimum between the teams, the visitors knew they had a real battle on their hands. Inevitably following another foul on Aaron Kelly, Ruairi Convery pointed the resultant free to tie the scores after twenty two minutes.
And it could have been worse for London had wing back Kevin Hinphey not spurned a good goal scoring opportunity five minutes later. But although Peter Phelan pointed another free just after the half hour to put London back in front, two late points from man-of-the-match Paddy Henry, including one from play, put Derry back into a deserved lead. However just as everyone in the splendidly appointed Derry GAA Centre of Excellence expected the Oakleafers to take a slender lead to the dressing room, they were hit with a late sucker punch goal from London, scored by Mark O’Dwyer following a free from Enda Collins to leave the half-time score: London 1-5 Derry 0-6.
Early second half goal leaves Exiles playing catch-up
From the re-start, London failed to take advantage of their late first half goal while Derry emerged determined to make a better start to the second half than they did in the opening quarter. And it was Paddy Henry who provided them with a perfect start when he ran on to a diagonal pass from Patrick McCloskey to steer the ball to the net from close range.
An excellent point from Ruairi Convery soon followed to now put Derry into a 1-7 to 1-5 lead. And that lead was soon doubled with further scores from Henry and Convery before a Peter Phelan free kept London in touch after a foul on Derek Morkam in the 43rd minute.
But although London had their chances, they were guilty of hitting some bad wides while Derry remained in control even after another Phelan pointed free cut the deficit to three points after 52 minutes. And the margin remained at three points with eight minutes remaining when Mark O’Dwyer gained possession and took on three Derry defenders just inside the large parallelogram before finishing to the net with a tennis style stroke to level the match.
Suddenly it was now anybody’s match as the game entered the closing minutes with extra-time now beckoning once again for the tiring Exiles. But Derry refused to panic and looked to have set up a winning point for substitute Niall Ferris with less than two minutes of normal time remaining.
However, from the puck-out London were back on the offensive and forced Derry into conceding a free following a foul on substitute Christopher McAlinden. Up stepped Peter Phelan to take on the responsibility and he duly drilled the equalising point with the game deep into added time.
But there was still time for Derry to launch one final attack and with London defending desperately it looked as if Conor Hickey had cleared his lines. But under pressure from Alan Grant the umpire deemed that the Kilburn Gaels clubman also stepped over the end line to concede a ’65. And with the penultimate puck of the match it was left to Paddy Henry to hit what proved to be the winning point from the resultant placed ball and so leave the final score: Derry 1-12 London 2-8
Scorers: Derry – Patrick Henry 1-6(0-5)f,(0-1)65, Ruari Convery 0-3(0-2)f. Paul Cleary, Patrick McCloskey and Niall Ferris 0-1 each. London – Peter Phelan 0-6(0-6)f, Mark O’Dwyer 2-0, Neil Rogers and Tadhg Healy 0-1 each
Derry – Daryl McDermott; Michael Warnock, Conor Quinn, Sean McCullagh; Anton Rafferty, Conor McSorley, Kevin Hinphey; Sean McGuigan, Brendan Quigley; Patrick McCloskey, Paul Cleary, Patrick Henry; Aaron Kelly, Ruari Convery, Alan Grant. Subs: Dean Flanagan for Brendan Quigley 54, Niall Ferris for Patrick McCloskey 50, Brendan Douban for Aaron Kelly 64.
London – James Barrett; Conor Hickey, Luke Gaule, Kieran Fitzpatrick; Tadhg Healy, Martin Ryan, Derek Morkan; Enda Cooney, Neil Rogers; Peter Phelan, Nollaig Brophy, Mark O’Dwyer; Michael Ivors, Kevin Coen, Enda Collins. Subs: Philip Murphy for Kevin Coen 43, Christopher McAlinden for Enda Collins 52.
Referee: John Keane (Galway)