London fades after sparkling first-half but still retains its league status
By Larry Cooney at Conneff Park, Clane
London retained their league status despite defeat by Kildare in sunny Conneff Park, Clane last Sunday afternoon. Armagh, who drew at home to London in the second round, have now been relegated because of their inferior points difference following last Sunday’s heavy defeat in Carlow.
However despite another disappointing London defeat it was still a much improved team performance from the Exiles and especially in the opening half as they made full use of the elements to open up an eleven-point lead by half-time. But a much more imposing and focused Kildare team emerged in the second-half and having overhauled their deficit by the 53rd minute they finally ran out worthy four-point winners.
Defending the pavilion end on a superb surface London won the toss and opted to have first use of the elements which were quite significant. And indeed the visitors could not have got off to a better start with a goal from Shane Lawless in their first attack. There was nothing fortuitous about the well-worked score involving some very slick passing before Kevin O’Loughlin set up Lawless to apply the finish. From the puck-out Kildare midfielder and man-of-the-match David Reidy gained possession before off-loading to Jack Sheridan for an instant point reply from the Lilywhites.
But that score was soon wiped out by a fine Kevin O’Loughlin finish before another slick passing movement involving Shane O’Donnell and Tadhg Healy teed up O’Donnell for another green flag in the third minute to give London the kind of dream start they were hoping to get in what had begin as a crucial survival match.
Although Reidy pointed a free soon afterwards following a foul on Brian Byrne London continued to dominate the opening quarter with a brace of points in as many minutes from Enda Cooney and the first of three successful long-range frees from goalkeeper Eoin Kelly. But another David Reidy point from play was just about keeping the hosts in touch before another Cooney point set up by Garry Hill and a Kevin O’Loughlin pointed free put the visitors 2-5 to 0-3 ahead after twelve minutes.
And O’Loughlin was also unlucky to see a goalbound effort come back off an upright soon afterwards. However while Kildare appeared to be struggling to match their rampant opponents they were fortunate in having Limerick man midfielder David Reidy in top form both from open play and placed balls. His pointed free after a foul on his midfield partner Chris Bonus and a neat one-two between Mark Delaney and Brian Byrne cut the deficit to just two goals as an entertaining encounter entered the second quarter.
But four unanswered points from the Exiles gave them genuine hope that this might indeed be the day that they could indeed record their first league victory. Another Kevin O’Loughlin point from play was soon followed by two more successful Eoin Kelly pointed frees and a fine effort by Neil Rogers from an assist by Daryl Roberts who had just replaced Adam Murphy. But another David Reidy point stopped the Kildare rot after twenty nine minutes to leave the score London 2-9 Kildare 0-6 before London completed the half as they finished with a flourish by adding two more points from Shane O’Donnell and Enda Cooney to leave the amazing half-time scoreline: London 2-11 Kildare 0-6.
An eleven-point cushion would usually be a sufficient platform for victory but there was a feeling that Kildare were somehow playing well below par in the opening period.
And it did not take long before they began to also put the wind advantage to good use on the restart. Having failed to get any change out of a very stubborn London defence in the first half Kildare opted to whittle down their big deficit by patiently converting their point scoring opportunities. And that tactic produced early dividends with four unanswered points in the opening four minutes from David Reidy (2), Kilkenny man John Mulhall and Jack Sheridan. Now firmly on the backfoot, London were grateful for a Kevin O’Loughlin pointed free following a foul on centre back Brian Regan in the 40th minute before Kildare completely took over against the tiring Exiles.
With the Lilywhites midfield and half-back line now absolutely dominant London were pegged back almost for the remainder of the game. And in the next and what proved to be decisive twenty minutes the winners hit an unanswered 1-7, including another 1-3 from David Reidy, who had to leave the field with a hamstring injury on the hour.
Reidy’s goal came in the 50th minute before points from substitute Richie Ryan and John Mulhall levelled the scores in the 53rd minute. London’s only reply in the second half were two more Kevin O’Loughlin points as Kildare completed their second-half rally with further scores from Brian Byrne, a Paul Divilly pointed free, Jack Sheridan and finally John Mulhall to leave the final score: Kildare 1-21 London 2-14.
SCORERS: KILDARE: David Reidy 1-10 (5f, 1 ’65); Mark Delaney 0-4 (1f); Jack Sheridan and John Mulhall 0-2; Paul Divilly (f), Brian Byrne and Richard Ryan 0-1 each. LONDON: Kevin O’Loughlin 0-6 (3f); Shane Lawless and Shane O’Donnell 1-0 each, Eoin Kelly( 0-3)f and Enda Cooney 0-3 each; Neil Rogers and Daryl Roberts 0-1 each.
KILDARE: Paul Dermody; Cian Forde, John Doran, Niall O’Muineachain; Sean Gainey, Mark Moloney, Michael Reidy; Chris Bonus, David Reidy; Jack Sheridan, Paul Divilly, Peter Moran; Brian Byrne, Mark Delaney, John Mulhall. SUBS: Paudie Ryan for Peter Moran (35); Dinny Stapleton for John Doran (h-t); Paddy Moloney for David Reidy (inj.) (59); Garry Johnson for Mark Delaney (66).
LONDON: Eoin Kelly; Mark Conroy, Paul Horkan, Stephen Griffey; Alan Griffiths, Brian Regan, Gary Hill; Neil Rogers, Enda Cooney; Richard Murphy, Tadhg Healy, Adam Murphy; Shane Lawless, Kevin O’Loughlin, Shane O’Donnell. SUBS: Daryl Roberts for Richard Murphy (26); Bill Walsh for Lawless (48); Owen Sheil for Enda Cooney (53); Conor Kerr for Neil Rogers (62); Eamonn Kenny for Shane O’Donnell (69).
REFEREE: Gearoid McGrath (Wexford)