Allianz NFL Div 4
By Damian Dolan
At McGovern Park
London’s footballers missed the chance to record their best-ever National League season, as the Exiles let slip an eight-point lead at McGovern Park on Saturday.
Leitrim’s concession left Ciaran Deely’s side knowing that victory over Waterford would take London up to seven points – one more than the Exiles managed in their first-ever season in the National League in 1993-94
And they looked well on their way when Killian Butler found the net in the 27th minute. The moment Liam Staunton claimed David Whitty’s short kick out, Waterford were exposed defensively and Liam Gavaghan and Ryan Elliott worked it well to tee up Butler, and he made no mistake.
That gave the home side a 1-8 to 0-3 lead, but it was Waterford – defying their disappointing league campaign thus far – who’d started the better.
Despite London having the breeze, Tom McGlinchey’s side looked comfortable and confident in possession. London were economy personified, taking the few opportunities to come their way and after the opening ten minutes the sides were locked at three points apiece.
Waterford were in the ascendancy, though, and David Carrabine needed to produce an excellent block to deny Jason Curry, following Gavin Crotty’s run.
But London then began to get a foothold. An Adrian Moyles free and a fine score from Gavaghan edged them into a two-point lead. A nice move nearly set up a goal chance for Fearghal McMahon, but he couldn’t take the final pass.
The home side were beginning to crank it up. Gavaghan and Moyles (free) pointed with the Exiles looking increasingly threatening on the break with an abundance of pace in their forward line.
Killian Butler pointed and then came the goal, which stretched the lead to eight points, and although a brace of Jason Curry frees closed that gap to six at the short whistle, the home side could be reasonably satisfied with their first halves’ work, particularly in the second quarter.
The second half would be an altogether different matter. Waterford grasped the initiative early doors and got the scores they needed to fuel belief that the comeback was indeed achievable. London boss Ciaran Deely would point to London complacency.
Tommy Prendergast’s first minute score set the tone. Michael Curry’s run then gave Jason Curry the chance to increase his tally further, with London still in the dressing room. Waterford were faster in thought and deed, and their intensity since the break had London firmly on the back foot.
Not even the loss of the impressive Tommy Prendergast could take the wind from their sails.
London needed a riposte and it came from their captain, as a Gavaghan bulldozing run earned a free which Moyles despatched. That should have settled the home side, but Kieran Power was becoming an increasing influence in the absence of his midfield partner, Prendergast.
Power fired over and then won a free from which Jason Curry brought the visitors back to within just a goal of London.
Less than a minute later that goal arrived as Jason Curry ran on to long ball forward, which Michael Walsh committed himself to but was unable to cut out, and the Waterford half forward never looked like doing anything other than finding the back of the London net.
London’s lead had been wiped out. Joe Allen edged Waterford ahead and Conor Murray’s score stretched the gap to two points.
The home side then had a glorious chance to hit back. Marcus Mangan’s quickly taken free found Moran in space with Gavaghan in support, and only one Waterford defender between them and Whitty’s goal.
But the Exiles couldn’t make the most of the two-on-one and the chance went a begging, as Moran’s handpass failed to find his captain.
Jason Curry responded with a free, but the home side were then given a lifeline when Paul Walsh saw a straight red with 16 minutes to go to for a challenge on Ciaran Dunne.
But in keeping with an otherwise patchy performance, London struggled to make their extra man tell.
A super point from Joey Veale increased the lead to four points, with Mayo two-time All-Ireland winner Liam Irwin marking his debut for the Exiles by scoring with his first touch just a minute after coming on.
Gavaghan added a free and with six minutes of normal time remaining London still had hope.
Jason Curry’s free left London needing a goal, however, and Killian Butler’s injury-time strike came too late to make a difference.
A disappointing second half for the Exiles, and not the way they would have wanted to have ended an otherwise positive league campaign. They’ll also fret on the fitness of the impression McMahon, who picked up a shoulder injury late on.
Waterford: David Whitty; Conor McCarthy, Thomas O’Gorman, Adam Walsh; Michael Curry, Joe Allen, Kieran Murphy; Kieran Power (0-1), Tommy Prendergast (0-2); Jason Curry (1-9, 9f), Gavin Crotty, Dylan Guiry; Joey Veale (0-2), Conor Murray (0-1), Caoimhain Maguire. Subs: Paul Walsh for Prendergast (42min), Mike Kiely for Kieran Murphy (70+2min).
London: Gavin McEvoy; Philip Butler, Ciaran Dunne, Michael Walsh; David Carribine, Marcus Mangan, Patrick Begley (0-1); Anthony McDermott, James Moran; Martin Carroll, Liam Gavaghan (0-3, 2f), Adrian Moyles (0-3f), Killian Butler (1-3), Fearghal McMahon (0-3), Ryan Elliott. Subs: Liam Staunton for Moran (8min – back card), Cormac Coyne for Carrabine (h-t), Eoin O’Brien for Maguire (39min), Ryan Jones for Moyles (54min), Liam Irwin for Elliott (60min), Eoin Murray for Walsh (60min), Ger Byrne for McMahon (70+6min).
Referee: Barry Judge (Sligo).