By Larry Cooney
in Joule Park, Aughrim
A dramatic last-puck Wicklow point from Eoin McCormack denied London victory in the opening round of the Christy Ring Cup in Joule Park, Aughrim last Sunday afternoon.
The shock result was yet another low-point for London hurling after a game the off-colour Exiles should have won. But at least Fergus McMahon’s charges were fortunate enough in the second round draw to avoid a clash with Carlow – who were narrowly defeated by last year’s Christy Ring Cup finalists Antrim.
However an improving Roscommon will also be formidable opposition next weekend and London will certainly need to ‘up their game considerably’ if they are to progress to the quarter-finals. Defending the pavilion end of the Joule Park ground and with the aid of a slight breeze the visitors were soon off the mark with full forward Edmund Kenny picking up an assist from Mark Dwyer to open the scoring in the opening twenty-five seconds.
However Wicklow were soon on level terms through corner forward Diarmuid Masterson after an assist from top scorer Christy Moorehouse. But despite dominating possession in the opening quarter London were still tied at 0-4 each after fifteen minutes.
Poor London shooting enabled Wicklow to remain in contention with a brace from Kevin McLoughlin and a fine opportunist score from Neill Rogers were cancelled out by scores from Moorehouse (2) and full forward Andy O’Brien.
MATCH AT A GLANCE
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Christy Moorehouse (Wicklow) Top scored with ten points but the Wicklow captain never stopped working and tormenting the London defence. He had plenty of support from wing back Eamonn Kearns and Danny Staunton and centre back Stephen Kelly.
SCORE-OF-THE-MATCH: Eoin McCormack’s 72nd minute winner. It was the most important score of an entertaining encounter. London’s better moments were the classy scores picked off by Enda Cooney in the 31st minute and Kevin O’Loughlin just before half-time.
TURNING POINT: Kevin O’Loughlin’s 23rd minute goal chance – London’s top scorer was the pick of the London team but he ploughing a lone furrow. Had his hurley not been broken in the act of scoring what looked like a certain goal, London would have won.
SAVE-OF-THE-MATCH: Paul Horkan’s 27th goalline clearance – A lobbing ball into the London square almost evaded the entire defence except the London captain who calmly cleared to safety.
However London also hit five wides in that same period which really proved costly as an entertaining contest unfolded. But London fared better for the remainder of the first half beginning with three points in as many minutes including two O’Loughlin pointed frees and a point from Shane Lawless after an assist from Mark Dwyer.
A dogged Wicklow team never allowed London to pull away and although Edmund Kenny hit another point after twenty-five minutes the hosts hit back with three scores from Moorehouse (including a pointed free and a successful 65) to leave the score London 0-8 to 0-7 just before the half-hour mark. But London outscored the hosts 0-3 to a Danny Staunton point in the closing minutes of the half with scores from an Enda Cooney brace and an excellent point from Kevin O’Loughlin to leave the half-time score: London 0- 11 Wicklow 0-8.
Although leading by three points London could and should have been much further ahead after hitting ten wides in the opening half. But they soon added to their interval lead from a Kevin O’Loughlin 65. And although a Christy Moorhouse pointed free soon cancelled out that score two O’Loughlin pointed frees opened up a five-point lead after 46 minutes.
However four unanswered Wicklow points in six minutes completely opened up the contest With scores from Diarmuid Masterson, Andy O’Brien and a brace of Moorhouse pointed frees Wicklow right back in contention and gaining in confidence and momentum.
But London refused to panic and with substitute Shane O’Donnell catching a fine delivery to send over the bar and Kevin Loughlin converting his second 65 the Exiles had a three point cushion with thirteen minutes remaining. And it should have been more a minute later when Kevin O’Loughlin was in sight of goal but his hurley was broken as he was being tackled.
Amazingly London failed to raise another flag for the remainder of the match while a much more determined Wicklow team were still playing with great heart and belief.
Beginning with Moorhouse’s third successful free Wicklow never let up and inspired by great displays from wing back Eamonn Kearns and wig forward Danny Staunton they worked tirelessly to get their team back to parity in the closing minutes.
London were also beginning to look very leg weary as they attempted to cling on to their two-point lead with two minutes of normal time remaining. But a foul on corner forward Eoin McCormack gave Moorehouse the chance to leave just the minimum between the teams.
And from the puck-out London were right back on the defensive as their halfback line failed to clear their lines. The resultant pressure inevitably led to George O’Brien’s chance to hit the equalising point as extra-time beckoned with just two minutes of added time remaining.
But with the smell of blood in their nostrils and London heads beginning to drop Wicklow took full advantage of their growing momentum when a break from a midfield exchange fell kindly for corner forward for Eoin McCormack to make himself a hero by hitting the winning point as referee John O’Brien sounded the final whistle on a final score of: Wicklow 0-17 London 0- 16.
It was a disastrous ending for a London team who never really reached their full potential or even any of the form they had shown in the opening half in Clane against Kildare just a couple of weeks ago. They have a chance to redeem themselves against Roscommon next weekend but based on the form and the results of last weekend it is difficult to look beyond Antrim and Carlow to lift this year’s Christy Ring Cup.
SCORERS: WICKLOW: Christy Moorehouse 0-10 (0-6) f (0-1) 65s, Diarmuid Masterson and Andy O’Brien 0-2 each, Danny Staunton, George O’Brien and Eoin McCormack 0-1 each. LONDON: Kevin O’Loughlin 0-9 (0-4) f (0-2) 65s, Enda Cooney and Edmund Kenny 0- 2 each, Neil Rogers, Shane Lawless and Shane O’Donnell 0-1 each.