Exiles with much work still to do

London hurlers require improvement
London’s Owen Shiel. Photo Sheila Fernandes

Allianz NHL Div 2A – Rnd 2

Meath 1-24
London 1-14

By Damian Dolan
At McGovern Park

An improvement on the scoreline, but the Exiles have a great deal still to do if they are to preserve their Division 2A status.

The first round of the Christy Ring is unashamedly the target for Fergus McMahon and his charges, but London will scarcely want to drop down into Division 2B in the meantime.

Following the previous weekend’s 20-point hammering at the hands of Kerry, London will take some comfort from having halved that deficit against Meath, but the stark reality of Saturday’s events at McGovern Park was a second loss for the Exiles.

Division 2B champions last year, Meath were never under serious threat from the moment they opened up an early four-point lead. The Exiles were their own worst enemies as two of those scores came direct from London errors.

Jack Regan was the dangerman for the visitors, following up his 13-point haul in the win over Kildare by racking up another ten against London.

London hurlers require improvement
London’s Conor Hickey. Credit Sheila Fernandes

Meath’s attack was moving well and carrying a threat, with the London forward line living off scraps. Richard Murphy’s freetaking kept the hosts, if not within touching distance, in Meath’s rear-view mirror.

Murphy got London on the board and Cian Lordan fired over an excellent score from wide on the left, as the Exiles began to show.

They were driven on by the excellent Kevin Reid and captain Brian Regan – the latter putting in a good shift in midfield having lined out at full back against Kerry.

In the Meath camp, Regan was getting good support from the excellent Paddy Conneely, with James Toher and captain James Kelly also impressing.

A Regan free increased the visitors lead to seven, but London did have half a sight of goal when Alan O’Leary fed Martin Duggan, but the full forward was crowded out and fouled. Murphy knocked over the resulting free.

Meath widened the gap to nine as half-time approached, but scores from Duggan and Lordan, after Duggan had made a nuisance of himself, saw the visitors take a 0-14 to 0-7 lead into the break.

London hurlers require improvement
London’s Daryl Roberts. Photo Sheila Fernandes

London emerged for the second half intent on taking the game to the visitors, and Murphy fired over inside the opening minute. That raised hopes that the home side were in the mood to make a real fight of it.

However, the sides’ traded blows before the Royal County effectively made sure of the points when Sean Quigley took full advantage of Conor Hickey being taken out by a teammate to burst away, before burying the ball into the bottom corner of James Barrett’s net.

It was an accomplished finish and one which gave the London keeper no chance. But from a London perspective it was a desperately poor goal to concede.

It also proved to be the killer blow, extending the Meath lead to ten and giving the visitors the breathing space they’d been looking for. Murphy immediately hit back for the Exiles, but Meath were now in a position of real ascendancy and able to dictate.

Nick Fitzgerald’s men kept the scoreboard ticking over just enough thereafter with the onus on London to try and make inroads.

London hurlers require improvement
London’s Brian Regan. Photo Sheila Fernandes

Despite their best efforts, they couldn’t. London needed goals if they were to drag themselves back into the game and set up a thrilling finish.

Fergal Collins and Duggan combined for the latter to fire over, and Reid’s free into the square caused havoc, but Meath were able to scramble it away.

Otherwise London were getting little change from Meath’s well organised defence. Just as they did against Kildare, Meath finished strongly, but it was London who had the final word.

Tony Clarke got the score his efforts deserved and then a long ball in saw the hardworking Duggan again cause mayhem, with Daryl Roberts arriving at pace to pick up the pieces and finish smartly past Shane McGann.

London and McMahon now have a welcome two-week break to prepare for the visit of Carlow to Ruislip on 18 February.

MEATH: Shane McGann; Chris Lynch, Damien Healy, Shane Brennan; Niall Weir, Darragh Kelly, Keith Keoghan; Anthony Forde, Jack Regan (0-10, 7f, 1×65); Paddy Conneely (0-6), James Kelly (0-3), James Toher (0-3); Cathal McCabe, Neil Heffernan, Sean Quigley (1-1). Subs: Adam Gannon for Weir (blood sub 20min), Weir for Gannon (blood sub reverse 22min), Eamon O’Donnchadha (0-1) for McCabe (46min), Gannon for Forde (51min), Mark O’Sullivan for Heffernan (55min), Colm O’Mealoid for Quigley (55min), Padraig Kelly for Keoghan (57min).

LONDON: James Barrett; Conor Hickey, Colin Nelson, William Campion; Darren Moore, Kevin Reid, Christopher McAlinden; Alan O’Leary, Brian Regan; Owen Shiel, Shane Lawless, Tony Clarke (0-1); Cian Lordan (0- 2), Martin Duggan (0-2), Richard Murphy (0-9, 5f, 1×65). Subs: Lee Murphy for Nelson (h-t), Fergal Collins for Shiel (h-t), Alan Griffiths for Campion (49min), Daryl Roberts (1-0) for Lordan (65min), Jody Troy for Lawless (65min).

REFEREE: A Devine (Westmeath).

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