By Damian Dolan
London forward Aaron Sheehan has issued a rallying cry ahead of Saturday’s crucial Christy Ring Cup Round 3 clash with Kildare.
Only victory will do against the Lilywhites at McGovern Park (1pm) if the Exiles are to prevent a disappointing year turning into a “disaster”.
Defeats to Meath (by 16 points) and Roscommon (by 10 points) leave London, beaten in last year’s Croke Park final by the Lilywhites, out of contention for a semi-final place. Kildare find themselves in the same boat.
The prize for the winners in Ruislip is Christy Ring hurling again next year, while the losers will get a second crack at survival via a relegation play-off.
“We have to do it for ourselves, and do it for London,” Sheehan told the Irish World.
“A lot of us, including myself, have to put our hands up and say we haven’t performed to the best of our ability. We haven’t shown enough this year.
“Hopefully on Saturday things will come right against Kildare and we can show the best of London.”
Relegation to the Nicky Rackard would compound the end of the Exiles’ six-year spell in Div 2A, which was ended by defeat to Mayo in Ruislip in the sides’ winner-takes-all meeting in March.
“It’s not been a good year, but we can’t let it be a complete disaster,” added Sheehan, who has racked up 0-46 (33f, 4’65) for London this year.
“Getting relegated from the league was a real pity, but being relegated from the Christy Ring would be awful. We want to be in it next year.
“It’s all about the Kildare game – we’re not thinking about a relegation play-off. We want to get the win in Ruislip and we’re not looking any further than that.”
London’s hopes of reaching back-to-back Christy Ring finals disappeared against Roscommon.
The sides were locked at 0-9 a piece after 27 pulsating minutes, but the sendings off of Cormac Thornton, and then Lee Murphy in the second half, cost the Exiles dear, with the visitors taking full advantage.
“There were spells in the first half where we showed we were a better side than them – a bit like the Mayo game – but you can’t afford to have two men sent off. One is hard enough,” said Sheehan, who joined Kilburn Gaels in 2017 from Mallow in Cork.
“We were devastated [afterwards]. We were disappointed against Meath, but then they are the best team in the Christy Ring. They’re the hot favourites.”
Sheehan says the Exiles have regrouped since their defeat to Roscommon and are now fully focused on Kildare, and getting a result.
“The heads were a bit down at training on the Tuesday after Roscommon, but things have picked up since then. We just said ‘there’s no point feeling sorry ourselves, this is what it is’,” he said.
“We don’t want to be going back to Ireland two weeks later – we want to beat Kildare.”
Saturday’s game will bring back memories of the sides’ winner-takes-all meeting at McGovern Park in 2018, when victory for the Exiles relegated Kildare to Div 2B.
Kildare got their revenge, though, in the Christy Ring final.
Uppermost for Shane Kelly’s Exiles on Saturday will be keeping 15 players on the pitch, as sendings off have plagued the side this year.
Thornton and Murphy’s dismissals took London’s number of red cards this year to eight in seven matches. Only once have they finished with their full complement.
“We can’t hide away from it. Discipline is massive and Kildare will know this,” said Sheehan.
“A Roscommon player told me after the match that they knew about the sendings off, so maybe they tried to target us a little bit.
“We need to stay disciplined, hurl with more freedom and try and enjoy it. If we can do that, maybe we’ll play a bit better and we won’t have to react to anything.
“Hopefully on Saturday we can show the best side of us.”