Despite a lively start, London hurlers were unable to get their league campaign off to a winning start, as they fell victim to a nine-point defeat at the hands of Westmeath.
The visitors topped the Division 2A table last year, only narrowly missing out on promotion when they lost the final to Kerry, but it was an improved result for London, who were on the wrong end of a 15-point gap in the correlating fixture in 2015.
The killer blow came from two goals either side of half time, courtesy of Cormac Boyle and Robbie Greville.
London started the brighter of the two teams as Kevin O’Loughlin slotted over his free three minutes into play.
The Sean Treacys corner forward, as designated free taker, was London’s top scorer, but apart from the impressive accuracy of his set-plays he was one of London’s best performers, causing Westmeath’s defence problems all afternoon.
He got his next point from play after being set up by a short free from midfielder Damien Browne on the half way line. Westmeath were hitting wides at this time and London had a good chance to extend their lead when Daryl Roberts, O’Loughlin and Shane O’Donnell worked well together to force a 65 opportunity, but it was intercepted by captain Aonghus Clarke.
But the subsequent clearance from Cormac Boyle set up Darragh Egerton on the right wing to open the scoring for the Lake County. Clonkill corner forward Niall Dowdall came next with a great point from play, before a free from club teammate Brendan Murtagh gave his side the lead on eleven minutes.
Immediately afterwards Boyle ran straight in from his midfield position and his ball into the square ended up beyond the reach of Padraig Buckley, with Dowdall perhaps causing a slight distraction away from the less than powerful effort. Kevin Reid set up Noel McDonnell who got London’s third point with a high effort against the run of play.
But Westmeath extended their lead further as Boyle set Murtagh up in front of the posts for a four point advantage yet again. He got the next from play again when he turned around a slight messy bit of play by taking his chance, before London got their next.
Robert Emmetts’ Roberts dissected the Westmeath defence with a superb ball to Shane O’Donnell for the fourth, before hard work from Eoin Chawke set up O’Loughlin for their next point. At this stage Fergus McMahon decided to bring Christopher McAlinden on for Sean Murphy, and the early substitution brought more stability to the London defence as the replacement won vital possession in the back three on many occasions.
Boyle got the next point before McAlinden prevented Darragh Egerton getting anything from the next run of play as he pressured him into losing possession. Boyle would get the next point however, and again it was McAlinden who saved his side again when Robbie Greville’s goal attempt ended up over the bar for a point instead.
Egerton would get the next point however before Murtagh pointed another free and Liam Varley got his name on the scoresheet as he put his first attempt over the posts.
As half-time beckoned London had conceded six unanswered frees, and when Carlow’s Patrick Murphy blew the whistle for the break, they were nine points behind. London picked up a soft free inside the 45m line which O’Loughlin put low and over for their sixth straight after the break.
Westmeath sealed their fate however just moments afterwards as Robbie Greville replicated his Raharney clubmate’s earlier goal success when he capitalised on a loose ball after Murtagh’s ‘65’ attempt ricocheted off of the posts. O’Donnell responded with a great point from the left wing before O’Loughlin added another two frees to his side’s tally.
The equally accurate Murtagh responded with one of his own and it looked like things could go from bad to worse when Varley was brought down in London’s square and Murphy awarded the visitors a penalty.
But Buckley responded astonishingly quickly to Murtagh’s powerful attempt to save his side from conceding a third goal, and Fergal Collins ensured that the danger was ended as he rushed to clear the ball down the field. But another pointed free from Niall O’Brien was followed by a Dowdall point which confirmed Westmeath’s dominance soon after.
O’Loughlin pointed his next free attempt, before substitute Paddy Lynham got a point within a matter of seconds after coming onto the field. O’Loughlin rounded off the scoring with his late 65 attempt to clinch his tenth point and set the final score at 2-16 to 0-13.
London were by no means played off the pitch, but could not overturn the dominance and clinical finishing of the Westmeath side in their first match of 2016. They travel to Carlow this weekend, who beat Kildare by 2-13 to 0-14 in their opening league fixture. London will be looking to avoid the heavy 3-12 to 0- 7 they suffered when Carlow travelled to Ruislip last year.
LONDON: N McDonnell 0-1; S O’Donnell 0-2; K O’Loughlin 0-10 (8fs, 1 ’65).
WESTMEATH: C Boyle 1-2; N O’Brien 0-1 (1f); B Murtagh 0-5 (4fs); L Varley 0-1; N Dowdall 0-3; R Greville 1-1; D Egerton 0-2; P Lynham 0-1
LONDON: Padraig Buckley; Thomas Lawrence, Luke Guale, Sean Murphy; Fergal Collins, Brian Regan, Barry Kelly; Noel McDonnell (0-1), Damien Brown; Mark O’Dwyer, Kevin Reid, Daryl Roberts; Shane O’Donnell (0-2), Eoin Chawke, Kevin O’Loughlin (0- 10, 8fs 1 ‘65’). SUBS: Christopher McAlindan for Murphy, Stephen Lambert for O’Dwyer, Steven Griffey for Kiely
WESTMEATH: Paddy Maloney; Shane Power, Tommy Doyle, Kieran Duncan; Aaron Craig, Gary Greville, Alan McGrath; Aonghus Clarke, Cormac Boyle (1-2); Niall O’Brien (0-1, 1f), Brendan Murtagh (0-5, 4fs), Liam Varley (0-1); Niall Dowdall (0-3), Robbie Greville (1-1), Darragh Egerton (0-2) SUBS: Tommy Gallagher for Duncan, Alan Devine for Egerton, Paddy Lynham (0-1) for Boyle, Killian Murphy for Murtagh.
Of course there was disappointment , but it was over the result not the performance.
We always go out to win games, but Westmeath are one of the strongest teams in the group and it was our first match back out.
They’ve had four or five games under their belt.
“I think we were unlucky with the goals but we’ll be preparing now for Carlow and hope to pick up a result. But they’ll be in fine form after a good win over Kildare at the weekend too.
“We’ve a few lads that are coming back from injury and hopefully we’ll find out this week that they are available.
“Tadgh Healy is a big loss to the side, and he’s our captain this year. We felt that he was probably the best hurler in London last year and with his experience he was the ideal choice for captaincy this year.”