Allianz NFL Div 4
By Damian Dolan
At McGovern Park
There was a time when London might have settled for a five-point defeat in their National League opener. Not this Exiles team.
For while Ciaran Deely’s charges were left with an abundance of positives to take from this Round 1 tie – a repeat of the sides’ All Ireland qualifier meeting last summer – London know that they were too often the architects of their downfall at McGovern Park on Saturday, against a Carlow team in the mood to exploit London’s errors.
Far too often for the home side’s liking, cheap first half turnovers were ruthlessly seized upon by Carlow, with the likes of the excellent Brendan Murphy, Sean Murphy and Darragh Foley eating up the Ruislip turf as Carlow countered with pace and precision.
Leading 0-4 to no score after just seven whirlwind minutes, Turlough O’Brien’s men had made a blistering start.
The Exiles stayed in touch thanks to Liam Gavaghan’s strike, as London’s inspirational captain collected Killian Butler’s pass without breaking stride, before bouncing off the challenges and firing the ball past Robbie Molloy.
Darragh Foley replied with a free, but Gavaghan’s strike had shown his teammates the way, and when a Carlow shot dropped into the grateful arms of Gavin McEvoy, the London ‘keeper launched a counter attack which ended with Killian Butler pointing. Carlow suffering a taste of their own medicine.
Tom Waters was unlucky to see his shot come back off the post, and Eoghan Ruth’s audacious strike showed the strength of the wind at Carlow’s backs in the first half, as it sailed over the bar with plenty of room to spare.
A Gavaghan free brought the home side back to within a point, but unforced errors were killing the Exiles.
The game swung in the visitors’ favour in the 21st minute. Anthony McDermott collected a free into the London square, only to be immediately swarmed upon by three Carlow jerseys, and dispossessed. The ball was swiftly worked to Ruth in space and he beat McEvoy.
Paul Broderick, who racked up 0-6f in last year’s championship game, followed that with a sublime sideline score, and having battled back to within a point the Exiles suddenly found themselves down by five.
But Killian Butler, who looked to be running down a blind alley, produced a superb score from the right hand sideline to rally the Exiles once again.
Although Broderick responded, Mark Gottsche fed the rampaging Gavaghan only for the London skipper to be bundled over as he shaped to shoot.
Referee James Bermingham had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. Eoin Murray stepped up and confidently despatched it past Molloy.
With five minutes of the half remaining, London were back to within just two points. But it was Carlow who finished the half the stronger, claiming three of the halves’ final four scores.
The Exiles’ score coming from debutant Ryan Elliott, one of seven home-grown players in the London starting line up.
— the Irish World (@theirishworld) January 27, 2018
A thoroughly entertaining first half ended with Carlow leading 1-11 to 2-4, but London now had the wind, or so they thought as its strength decidedly petered out as the second half progressed.
It was Carlow’s turn to hit the post, as Broderick’s free came back off the upright, and instead the Exiles struck first blood.
Phillip Butler, not for the last time in the half, cast aside his defensive duties to launch an attack with a burst up field which eventually led to a free which Gavaghan fired over.
A minute later, Gavaghan had another sight of the uprights, only for his free attempt to fall short, but for the ball to break kindly for the Exiles.
Killian Butler was the beneficially, only for his low shot to flash across the face of Molloy’s goal, and what can only have been a matter inches wide.
It was close enough to draw an agonised gasp from the home support. Had it nestled in the corner, the Exiles would have been back on level terms. By such slender margins do games ebb and flow.
Broderick’s huge free was cancelled out by Adrian Moyles (free), but London just couldn’t eat into the Carlow lead.
Kieran Nolan and Darragh O’Brien combined to set up Gary Kelly to point, and three minutes later the Barrowsiders effectively wrapped the game up.
A quickly taken free caught the Exiles’ defence stretched, with the ball moved swiftly through the hands of Broderick and Foley, and Jordan Morrissey, overlapping on the right, arrived to apply the finish and raise the green flag. Carlow led 2-13 to 2-6 with 13 minutes remaining.
The home side weren’t done quite yet, however. Gavaghan responded with a free and then Moyles added another from play.
But just when the Exiles needed composure, with the momentum with them, their wide tally began to rise sharply. London’s final wide count of 11, compared to Carlow’s two, told its own story.
Still, a Gavaghan free reduced the gap to just four with the Exiles still in the hunt, but they couldn’t get any closer and Broderick closed the game out.
Carlow should have added a third goal late on but Patrick Begley got a crucial hand in as the visitors butchered a three-on-one.
It mattered not, as O’Brien’s men made a winning start to their Division 4 campaign. For Deely and his Exiles, plenty of positives, but this London team doesn’t deal in faint praise. It wants wins.
CARLOW: Robbie Molloy; Barry John Molloy, Conor Lawlor, Jordan Morrissey (1- 1); Danny Moran, Daniel St Ledger (0-1), Ciaran Moran (0- 1); Sean Murphy (0-1), Sean Gannon; Eoghan Ruth (1-1), Brendan Murphy, Darragh O’Brien; Paul Broderick (0-6, 5f), Darragh Foley (0-2f), John Murphy. SubS: Kieran Nolan for Gannon (h-t), Gary Kelly (0- 1) for Molloy (h-t), Brendan Kavanagh for Lawlor (53min), Jamie Clarke for O’Brien (60min), Lee Walker for Foley (69min).
LONDON: Gavin McEvoy; Philip Butler, Ryan Jones, Patrick Begley; Colin Dunne, Shane McManus, Adrian Moyles (0-2, 1f); Anthony McDermott, James Moran; Eoin Murray (1-0, pen), Liam Gavaghan (1-4f), Tom Waters; Ryan Elliott (0-1), Mark Gottsche, Killian Butler (0-2). SubS: Marcus Mangan for McManus (46min), Ger Byrne for Murray (53min), Martin Carroll for McDermott (61min), John Daly for Jones (61min).
REFEREE: James Bermingham (Cork).