By Damian Dolan
At Tir Chonaill Park, Greenford
A losing start for London in the Gaelic Masters, but some might consider last Saturday progress given the 30-point hammering suffered at the hands of Sligo in last year’s opening round meeting at Davitt Park, Swinford.
While the Yeats men went on to reach the final, the Exiles regrouped from that battering to beat Roscommon and run eventual champions Mayo mightily close.
All things being equal, David Igoe’s side can therefore consider themselves ahead of the game after last weekend’s opener on a scorching hot day in Greenford.
Sligo were deserved victors on the day. Their work was sharper and more accurate, and the visitors were noticeably fitter.
Paul Taylor and Dessie Sloyne provided a clinical edge in the forwards, while they had size in abundance in midfield with Con O’Meara, in particular, winning a huge amount of possession.
But London can certainly build on this platform with a trip to Antrim next up on May 19.
Aidan Dillane picked up from where he left off last year when Chris Byrne’s sublime ball over the top in the sixth minute picked out the Kingdom Kerry Gaels man, and he never looked like doing anything other than bursting the net.
It was a goal against the run of play however. Sligo had already registered points from Sloyne and Eamonn Cawley and were looking the more cohesive unit.
The Exiles in contrast were guilty of giving the ball away far too easily. They would, however, rectify this as the game went on.
Sligo were immediately back on level terms through Sean Davey, and then began to pull away. As half-time approached the Yeats had opened up a 0-10 to 1-0 lead.
Dillane ended the Exiles’ 19-minute scoring drought, but a replica of London’s goal saw a pinpoint ball over the top pick out Sloyne and he gave Ciaran McGann no chance.
The Exiles would end the half with something of a flourish however. Fergus McMahon’s free was followed by a nice move involving Byrne and Dillane, which ended with Paul Mullins pointing. Sligo led 1-10 to 1-3 at the break.
Sligo’s second goal, nine minutes after the restart from Davey, gave the home side a mountain to climb. Davey nipping in before squeezing his shot past replacement London ‘keeper Brian McBrearty.
The third came four minutes later as Sloyne cut inside before finishing smartly. The lead was now up to 15 points.
But to their credit, London rallied to finish the final quarter strongly and outscore the visitors by 0-5 to 0-2. McMahon knocked over three frees with Fergal Cunningham and Byrne both pointing.
The game had gone, but it was a spirited finish by the home side, who’ll benefit from this 60 minutes as they prepare to face Antrim next up.
London: Ciaran McGann; Mickey Liston, Damian McKenna, Eddie McGuigan; Conor Mone, Darren Howlin, Dave Cannon; Vinny O’Sullivan, Paul Mullins (0-1); Neil O’Shea, Fergus McMahon (0-5f), James O’Connor; Aidan Dillane (1-1), Chris Byrne (0-1), Fergal Cunningham (0-1). Subs: Keith Geraghty, Nige McDermott, John Reddington, Martin Hession, Tim Slattery, Pete Behan, Martin McMenamin, Michael Scanlon, Gerry Lynott, Brian McBrearty.
Sligo: Gerry Dooner; Mark Boland, David Kilnorn, Damien Kelly; Morgan McCormack, David Durcan, Mark Cosgrove; Con O’Meara, Nigel Clancy; Sean Davey (1-3), Paul Taylor (0-3, 2f), Declan Cawley (0-1); Dessie Sloyne (2-6, 4f), Fergal Kelly, Eamonn Cawley (0-1). Subs: Gary Mullen, Colin Gordon, Blair Foley, Paul Durcan (0-1).