By Larry Cooney
Allianz NFL Division 4 – Round 7
London were really put to the sword in the opening quarter in TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar last Sunday afternoon by promoted Westmeath.
After a heavy defeat in Carrick-on-Shannon on the previous Sunday by their Connacht championship opponents Leitrim the Exiles’s hopes of ending a disappointing league campaign on a high were soon dispelled as the men from the Lake County displayed a real ruthless streak to open up a 3-12 lead after twenty-five minutes even before the visitors raised a flag.
Three goals – all palmed to the net from pointblank range – from John Connellan, Shane Dempsey and David Lynch, in the seventh, eighth and twenty-fourth minutes respectively, helped Westmeath to a 3-12 lead even before London’s best player, Down man Rory Mason, opened their account. But the hosts, who had a number of fringe players in action, continued to press home their superior class of a one-sided encounter to lead by 3-19 to 0-3 at halftime.
Already looking ahead to next Saturday’s Division 4 encounter with Wexford it was not surprising that Westmeath eased off considerably and adopted a ‘job done’ approach. Westmeath talisman and league top-scorer John Heslin and team captain did not return for the second half. The result was that London enjoyed much more possession and even outscored their hosts by 1-6 to 0-7 but that fact was indeed little consolation for an outclassed Exiles team facing another annihilation at the end of another disappointing campaign.
But the form of Rory Mason continues to be the only big London story this year so far and he was easily the best performer in a green shirt in Mullingar last Sunday.
It is very difficult to assess how relevant the finish to last game was for both teams. Westmeath clearly had their attention on this Saturday’s afternoon’s clash with Wexford hoping to claim their first silverware since they shocked Dublin in a Division 2 final in Navan in 2008.
But with the result already inevitable London’s only objective left was no more than giving the scoreboard some kind of respectability. And indeed it was Rory Mason, in particular, who continued to cause Westmeath problems as London battled away and scored an unanswered 1-3 to end another best forgotten display for the visitors.
London’s goal was scored by substitute John Daly in the 70th minute. Westmeath face Wexford in the final in Croke Park next Saturday after an immediate, and very comfortable, return to Division 3 status for Tom Cribbin’s team who should also make another favourable impression in this year’s Leinster championship. Quite where Ciaran Deely’s London go from here is as uncertain and unpredictable as their league campaign has been this season.
From a positive point of view apart from their amazing victory in Carlow London also played well for much of their matches against Limerick and Wexford and would have given Waterford a better game had that fixture been later in the fixtures’ programme. But against Wicklow, Leitrim and last Sunday London’s resistance resembled a horror show.
London have finished rock bottom of Division 4 with a points difference of -54, twenty points worse than Wicklow. However much of London’s poor play is as result of easy turnover ball in the tackle and this is an area that will require a big improvement as the intensity of championship football hots up.
It’s less than two months before that all important date against Leitrim in the Connacht championship but on current form it is difficult to see the Exiles matching the result of 2013 when they claimed only their second Connacht championship victory against Sligo. But from a positive point of view London’s display in Carlow proved that there is plenty of football ability in this current London squad. But the real test is whether or not they can really reproduce on the day.
SCORERS: WESTMEATH: John Connellan 1-6 (0-2f), Shane Dempsey 1-4, John Heslin 0- 5 (3f), Denis Lynch 1-1, Colm Boyle, Callum McCormack 0-3 each, Killian Daly, N Mulligan, Denis Glennon, John Rock 0-1 each. LONDON: Rory Mason 0-5 (2f), John Daly 1-0, Liam Gavaghan, Marc Jordan, Jarlath Branagan, Kieran Hughes 0-1 each.
WESTMEATH: Stephen Gallagher; John Rock, Francis Boyle, Killian Daly; Colm Boyle, Paddy Holloway, Niall Mulligan; Alan Stone, Ger Egan; Denis Glennon, Callum McCormack, Denis Lynch; Shane Dempsey, John Heslin, John Connellan. SUBS: Denis Corroon for Egan (h-t), Alan Gaughan for Stone (h-t), Thomas McDaniel for Heslin (h-t), John Egan for Lynch (h-t), Stephen Corcoran for Mulligan (50), Anthony Gardiner for F Boyle (54).
LONDON: Conor Campbell; Ciaran Dunne, Cian Coyne, Conor O’Neill; Philip Butler, Ryan Jones, Marc Jordan; Greg Crowley, Cathal Óg Greene; Jarlath Branagan, Rory Mason, Colm Doran; Dean Moore, Liam Gavaghan, Killian Butler. SUBS: Kieran Hughes for Jones (50), M Carroll for Doran (50), D Ryan for Coyne (59), Dave Carrabine for Jordan (59), Adrian Moyles for Moore (60), John Daly for K Butler (63).
REFEREE: Paddy Faloon (Down).