London hurlers’ did well to force a draw against Kildare at the weekend, but will rue missed goal opportunities that would have given them an all important win on the table
London were off the back of an impressive 5-16 to 1-11 win over Carlow in their previous game, which set them up in a strong position in Division 2A.
But Kildare proved hungry to get their first league points on the table and although London were ahead at various stages in the match, the fitness and intensity of a young Kildare team meant they caught up and went ahead with just minutes to play.
It left Kevin O’Loughlin to put away a last-gasp set play to put the sides level at the climax.
The game opened up with a lot of space in the middle of the park, which Kildare began to capitalise on with the majority of possession, and London were let off when full forward Gerry Keegan shot a wide two minutes in. Immediately, latecomer to the starting line up Bill Walsh passed back from the left to set up Brothers Pearse’s Kevin Reid for the opening score.
Kildare would respond immediately themselves when Naas’ Philip Cocoman got the better of Damien Brown for the visitors’ opening point. They would respond quickest again when Cellbridge forward Keegan had a goal chance in the next attacking play but Eoin Kelly stood strong and deflected the ball to safety.
O’Loughlin, who went into the match as the top scorer in the whole of the Allianz league, with a tally of 3-19 from the opening two games, had his first chance soon after but put his effort wide.
It was to be an uncharacteristically quiet day for him, but Reid made sure London took the lead again when he struck a clean shot from the halfway line.
Kilburn Gaels Mark O’Dwyer would hit the next effort wide, to which Keegan responded with a pointed free.
The game was very open for this opening twenty minutes, with three London and one Kildare wide to follow in quick succession, before the visitors would grab the lead for the first time, again through Keegan who found himself clear in front of the goals.
It was nervy stuff for London as his fellow Cellbridge clubman Mark Moloney ran through under pressure from the half back line to get his shot away for Kildare’s fourth. Jack Sheridan would put the next attempt wide under pressure from full back Luke Gaule, before Reid’s next shot fell short of the goals and made it easy for Paul Dermody to clear down the pitch.
Vaughan would set up O’Loughlin for London’s first goal opportunity but Dermody saved with ease. Kevin Reid, who was proving to be London’s biggest attacking threat, ran in from the right wing, his strength getting him byond his marker to give London a third.
Martin Duggan’s next goal opportunity was painstakingly close as his powerful shot across goal missed the numerous defenders scrambling back into the square, but bounced off of the crossbar and out wide to safety.
London would manage to level before the break when Reid again took a well-executed mid-range shot from the left wing as he was turning away from goal.Daryl Roberts did well to hold off Sean Gainey in the next play, and the sides went in with five points apiece at the break after Roberts and Declan Flaherty exchanged points before the whistle.
O’Loughlin continued to have a frustrating game after the break as his point attempt fell short of the posts before substitute Paudie Ryan also put his attempt wide.
Kilburn man Duggan soon found himself in space in front of goal, but a quick, instinctive, if theatrical, save kept the visitors from conceding a vital three points early on.
Another O’Loughlin wide later Duggan found himself in front of goal, after good link up play with Emmett’s Roberts, and the full forward was not going to let two goal chances pass him by as his powerful attempt sprung beyond the reach of a helpless Dermody.
Keegan, Kildare’s player-of-the-match, responded immediately with a point to control the damage, and got his side to within a point of the hosts soon afterwards with a pointed free. Brown put a bit of daylight between the sides soon afterwards with a point from midfield, before London’s next goal chance came.
Vaughan laid off to O’Loughlin who set up Duggan again, but the run of play deserted him this time, and he flicked his goal shot wide with a weak attempt.
Keegan would score the next from play and Gainey prevented Mark O’Dwyer from scoring on his attempt, as he was forced wide.
Cuchullains’ Oisin Gately put in a superb ball next but it was hoovered up by John Doran to keep London from scoring this time around.
Vaughan, equally impressive in defending, would stop Martin Fitzgerald’s next attempt with a great block, and under pressure Shane Ryan put his shot wide. Rushing again he would get another wide in less than a minute. Reid won the next loose ball in the centre of the park and put his shot over well to give his side a two point lead once more, punishing Kildare for not clearing the ball in a spell of messy play. Chris McAlinden made a spectacular block on Flaherty in the next play before Thomas Lawrence cleared to safety, but Niall O’Muineachain responded soon after with his side’s ninth point.
By this stage Reid looked as if he was tiring and was not posing the same offencisve threat as he once was, and as the final quarter approached O’Loughlin finally found his scoring as he pointed a free with just twenty minutes to go.
Keegan responded with his own set play before Jack Sheridan scored from play, and Keegan rushed his next chance to go wide. O’Loughlin pointed the next free, won well by Daryl Roberts on the left wing to once more go ahead.
Vaughan claimed the next puck out with ease, but when passed on to Brian Regan the shot was wasted. Gately would cover for Vaughan when he lost the ball to Flaherty, blocking the incoming shot.
The pair would team up in defending again, alongside substitute Peter Phelan when they closed down Philip Cocoman for his next shot. Fergal Collins responded with a brilliant ball in to Duggan, but he was blocked well with John Doran, in a final quarter that was end to end. London’s back three played immensely, as Lawrence made one block before McAlinden again closed down a Keegan attempy.
The equaliser had been coming for a while when Fitzgerald put over Kildare’s twelfth point, but there was drama yet as Reid found himself in front of space in the centre of the field with only the goalkeeper blocking his path for a three pointer. He was put under pressure by an incoming defender who caught up with a faster run back to goal, and Reid ended up putting his shot wide. It was a missed opportunity that would cost London badly.
As the game neared a close Fitzgerald stood up to take the lead, the first time that Kildare had gone in front since the first half. O’Loughlin made up for it with a well-taken free from the halfway line to equalise once more. Gately set up O’Loughlin for the next chance, but he mishit his shot, and when Reid ran on the ball he put his attempt wide.
As injury time fell replacement Mark Delaney gave his side the lead once more, and it looked to be up for London when Flaherty ran in on goal, but Eoin Kelly did just enough to get his hurl on the shot to trickle it wide to safety, with an incoming Kildare forward unable to get it into the back of the net.
Brian Regan put in a tremendous ball in what would prove to be London’s last attacking chance, and it landed to Michael Murphy who was dragged down in a fight for possession in front of the posts. O’Loughlin managed to put the subsequent free over to earn a well-deserved draw for the home side.
They will face Derry next at the weekend, and will be keen to get two points on the board from a team who have lost three in a row.
That would leave London with five points, with Antrim to play in the final round on March 20. Westmeath are so far unbeaten and London will be looking to give themselves the opportunity to progress to the league final for Division 2A if they can get a result against Derry.
LONDON: Eoin Kelly, Thomas Lawrence, Luke Gaule, Chris McAlinden, Fergal Collins, Brian Regan, Oisin Gately, Henry Vaughan, Damien Brown (0-1), Mark O’Dwyer, Kevin Reid (0-5, 1f), Daryl Roberts (0- 1), Kevin O’Loughlin (0-3, 3f), Martin Duggan (1-1, 1f), Bill Walsh
SUBSTITUTES: Shane O’Donnell for Walsh, Peter Phelan for O’Dwyer, Derek Morkam for Vaughan, Michael Murphy for O’Donnell
KILDARE: Paul Dermody, Ross Bergin, John Doran, Conor Gordon, Sean Gainey, Mark Moloney (0-1), Paul Divilly, Niall O’Muineachain (0- 1), Martin Fitzgerald (0-2), Philip Cocoman (0-1), Declan Flaherty (0-1), Tom Brady, Jack Sheridan (0-1), Gerry Keegan (0-6, 3f), Shane Ryan
SUBSTITUTES: Mark Delaney for Ryan, Paudie Ryan for Gainey, Ryan Casey for Brady