Sporting Review of the Year
It was a disappointing Christy Ring Cup campaign for London’s hurlers, as they exited on the back of defeats to Wicklow and Down, and a solitary win over Roscommon.
The loss in Wicklow certainly hurt as London departed knowing it was a game they could, and should, have won.
The Exiles had led as the game entered its final moments, only for George O’Brien’s lovely floated point to level things up and then Eoin Mc Cormack landed the winner right at the death to give Wicklow victory by 0-17 to 0-16.
London had deservedly led 0-11 to 0-8 at the break, but this would be a game of missed opportunities – two gift-wrapped goal chances, a three-on-one in the first half and Kevin O’Loughlin’s chance in the second half which was thwarted by the defending of Martin O’Brien.
When the Exiles stretched the lead to four points early in the second half it seemed as if London were primed to pull away at any moment, but try as they might they just couldn’t shake off a resilient and plucky Wicklow side, who just hung on in there, before striking late to stun Fergus McMahon’s side.
For all of Wicklow’s tenacity, and they certainly were that, this was a game that looked London’s for the taking. The impressive O’Loughlin finished with 0-9 (4fs, 2 ‘65) but the Exiles will otherwise not have fond memories of this one.
They duly took it out on Roscommon as they bounced back against an improving Roscommon side to win 4-24 to 1-9 at Dr Hyde Park.
The Exiles were six points to the good after 13 minutes, while it was another two minutes before the Rossies opened their account. A minute later PJ Rowe hit the back of the Roscommon net and it was all over bar the shouting.
O’Loughlin hit 1-7 (3f, 1 ’65), and Shane Lawless 1-3. Martin Duggan claimed the Exiles’ other goal in a comprehensive victory that reinstalled some much needed confidence after Wicklow.
That set up a quarter-final showdown with Down at Parc na hEireann in Birmingham, but it was Down who emerged victorious thanks to two Eoghan Sands goals, 2-19 to 0-19, which sent them through to the last four.
There was nothing to choose between the sides after 20 minutes, but Sands struck for the first of his brace to see the Mourne Men take a 1-8 to 0-8 lead.
But London responded and held a one-point advantage as half-time approached, only for Sands to claim his second goal of the game just before the half-time whistle.
That gave Down a 2-10 to 0-14 lead at the break, but despite the Exiles’ high wide count in the game, just four points separated the sides with seven minutes to go.
It was still all to play for London, but it was Down who finished the stronger to progress.
A disappointing end to a campaign which had seen the Exiles avoid relegation from National Hurling League Division 2A by virtue of their draw against Armagh, which proved just enough to keep them up on points difference.
The Exiles finished the league with a negative points difference of -42, but that was better than that of Armagh (-57) who made the drop to Division 2B.
London opened with a seven-point defeat to Antrim, before heading to Armagh where they looked to be cruising to victory as the game entered injury-time, 1-13 to 0-12.
Daryl Roberts got London’s goal, to add to five unanswered points which put the Exiles in the driving seat.
But Caily Gorman grabbed a goal and then Eoin McGuinness salvaged a draw for Armagh. Disappointment for London, but the draw would ultimately prove enough to preserve their Division 2A status. They just didn’t know it at the time.
A comprehensive 18-point defeat to eventual Christy Ring Cup champions Carlow followed, despite 2-1 from McLoughlin, and London’s star forward followed that with a personal haul of 2-6 out of 2-7, as the Exiles went down to Westmeath.
Meaning London’s Division 2A destiny remained in their own hands as they went in to the final round with relegation rivals Armagh facing Carlow and Fergus McMahon’s side up against Kildare.
The Exiles couldn’t have asked for a better start as they found the back of the Kildare net twice inside the opening three minutes – Shane Lawless and Shane O’Donnell with the goals. London seemed intent on making the outcome of Armagh’s game irrelevant.
The Exiles held a 2-11 to 0-6 advantage at the interval, but they would throw it away in the second half as they succumbed to a David Reidy 1-10(5f, 1’65) inspired comeback.
The home side outscored the Exiles by 1-10 to 0-1 in the third quarter and ultimately came home by 1-21 to 2-14.
A hugely disappointing loss for the Exiles, who finished the campaign winless, but at least they had the consolation of knowing that Armagh’s heavy defeat at the hands of Carlow ensured London’s Division 2A status.