By Larry Cooney
Although still trying to take in the enormity of London colossal and famous victory in Armagh, manager Fergus McMahon is now keenly looking forward to another huge game for London against Wicklow on Saturday at Netwatch Cullen Park (12:30pm).
And the London manager believes that there is scope for further improvement in the team, if they are to reach Croke Park for the first time since 2012 when they beat Wicklow in the Christy Ring final.
“While I was delighted with the performance, I thought we could have won by even more,” McMahon told the Irish World.
“The display was a reflection of how hurling in London has come on in leaps and bounds, but we have some way yet to go to get where we want to be.”
London’s avalanche victory over Armagh meant they topped Group 2 and now face the runners-up in Group 1, Wicklow, for a place in the final.
And although they reached the quarter-final of the Christy Ring Cup a year ago the London manager believes they are better equipped 12 months on to make a return to a Croke Park decider for the first time since their memorable Christy Ring Cup final triumph against this weekend’s opposition – Wicklow in 2012.
“Wicklow will be terribly disappointed to have lost out to Kildare last Saturday, which will make our job all the more difficult. But after last year’s quarter-final disappointment against Down in Birmingham we will be just as determined not to miss out on this occasion,” said McMahon.
London have a good recent record against the Garden County with just one narrow 0-17 to 0-16 defeat in Aughrim last year. A game the Exiles strongly believe they should have won.
McMahon added: “That was a game we had in our grasp but failed to finish it out and it will also be another added incentive for us to make amends this weekend.”
But London will have to prepare for this weekend’s encounter against Seamus Murphy’s Wicklow team without the unfortunate Kevin O’Loughlin and Fergal Collins who are both suspended.
Injury-wise, Henry Vaughan was the only serious casualty from Armagh with a niggling knee injury. But the player is hopeful he will shake it off for the Wicklow test.
Final points diff standings (all 2 wins):
— the Irish World (@theirishworld) June 2, 2018
Both managers will therefore be very familiar with their opponents and their capabilities, but London will probably have the stronger bench. Substitutes Michael Ivors and Joseph Troy both impressed and Richard Murphy might also be in line for a starting place.
Andy O’Brien and Christy Moorhouse are two of Wicklow’s key forwards who will need to be kept in check by the London defence as will influential midfielders Ronan Keddy and Danny Staunton who are also both capable of poaching goals.
London would also now appear to have done much of the ‘heavy lifting’ in their Christy Ring Cup campaign, but another huge test beckons this weekend before they can contemplate a first Croke Park final in six years.
Reflecting on the victory over Armagh, McMahon praised his side’s maturity. He said: “I think the maturity of this team was truly reflected in the final score-line and they are now being rewarded for all the hard work that has been put in since the start of the year.”
But last weekend’s outstanding performance was not just a one-way shoot-out for the team because there were also some fine defensive displays especially from full back and captain Brian Regan, corner back Chris McAlinden and the entire half back line and especially scoring wing back Cillian Burke.
In midfield Fergal Collins and long serving battler Henry Vaughan also never put a foot wrong.