By Damian Dolan
London forward Henry Vaughan has unashamedly set his sights on getting his hands on a second Christy Ring Cup winner’s medal.
London’s sole survivor of the county’s 2012 triumph, when Eamonn Phelan’s side made history when they stormed to victory over Wicklow at Croke Park, Vaughan believes this Exiles team can emulate that feat.
“A Christy Ring medal back then, when you had no Joe McDonagh, was a great medal to win,” Vaughan told the Irish World.
While London’s 4-18 to 1-17 victory over the Garden County was comprehensive, their run to the final was anything but serene.
After losing to Meath by a point in Round 1, they clawed their way into the semi-finals with hard fought victories over Mayo and Derry, both by just two points.
Their semi-final with Down would turn into something of an epic. Extra-time couldn’t separate the sides at Pairc Elser, and an additional period was again needed in the replay at Ruislip, before London finally prevailed 2-16 to 2-13.
In the final, Croke Park belonged to Vaughan’s Kilburn Gaels teammate Jonathan Maher, who scored 3-4. Martin Finn claimed 1-5(f) and James Egan 0-4.
Captain Colm Quinn lifted the trophy for a side which also contained the likes of Ger Fennelly, who played underage for Kilkenny, Michael Walsh, who was on the Cork senior panel, and Lee Mackey, who played Tipperary underage.
“With every game we gelled as a team and got better. We got on a winning run and just kept it going,” recalled Vaughan.
“We had good hurlers and our panel was very strong. We could bring on subs who were as good as the lads starting.”
It’s a point borne out by the strength of the bench at Phelan’s disposal that day at Croke Park – Brian Smyth captained Westmeath, Kevin Walsh, 2017 Christy Ring All Star Enda Cooney, and, of course, Vaughan.
It was the pinnacle of a successful few years for London’s hurlers. Prior to that, Vaughan had also been part of the team which won NHL Division 3B in 2009, when he was just 20, and the Nicky Rackard in 2011.
In 2013, he tasted more league success, as the Exiles won Division 2B. Vaughan chipped in with 0-3 from play as Meath were edged out by two points in the final. It remains the last trophy won by the county’s hurlers.
“Those three or four years were brilliant. At the time you don’t really look back at what you’ve won, you’re just looking forwards and to what you’re going to win next,” said Vaughan, who last year coached Kilburn Gaels to a senior title.
Returning to the county set-up this year, after hurling for his hometown club in Clare, Killaloe, for the past two years, and having helped the Exiles retain their Division 2A status, the target now is clear. To repeat that 2012 triumph.
“No stone has been left unturned this year. Training is very, very hard – harder than a London team has ever trained,” said Vaughan, for whom “competition for places’ was key six years ago.
“You need your five subs pushing to start, and no one being sure of a starting place. There’s 30 lads there training most nights and I haven’t seen that since the last time we won the Christy Ring.
“Our goal is to win the Christy Ring. That was laid down at the start of the year. To retain our [Division 2A] status in the league, and win the Christy Ring. The first box has been ticked.”
Now for the second box.