Tuesday 28 January 2020

London survive late scare to shock Sligo

London 1-12 Sligo 0-14

London players, from left, Lorcan
Mulvey, Tony Gaughan and Mark
Gottsche celebrate their side's victory
London players, from left, Lorcan Mulvey, Tony Gaughan and Mark Gottsche celebrate their side's victory
London manager Paul Coggins is held aloft

Tony Tighe

This year's championship is less than a month old but already we have had possibly the biggest shock this summer will see.

This year's championship is less than a month old but already we have had possibly the biggest shock this summer will see.

Fourteen-man London, who hadn't won a Connacht Championship match since 1977, withstood a late Sligo rally to record a stunning one-point victory at Ruislip yesterday afternoon.

The Exiles led by seven points early in the second half but were hanging on at the death as Sligo's superior fitness dragged them back into contention, and when Brian Curran burst through the home rearguard with seconds remaining, the Yeats County looked as though they might snatch at least a draw.

With a point at his mercy, Curran opted to go for the kill and teed up Pat Hughes, but his fisted effort came back off the crossbar and went wide, and the final whistle sounded moments later.

Having suffered late heartbreak in the past two seasons, against Mayo and Leitrim, manager Paul Coggins might have been forgiven for thinking his luck was never going to change. But my how it did.

BRILLIANT

"It was worth the wait," said the Roscommon native, who is in his third year in charge. "It's unbelievable really. The players did everything that was asked of them.

"We've had no games in the build-up but we had some brilliant games between ourselves. We've waited since 1977 for this win. Some great players and managers have passed through London since then.

"It's probably our most complete performance since I became manager. We beat Fermanagh two years ago but this is our best result. My ambition always was to get a win in the Connacht Championship. I've been watching these games since I was a young lad, going to see Roscommon play the likes of Mayo and Galway.

"But winning today isn't the end of our ambition. We'll get ready for the trip to Carrick-on-Shannon. We're not in any way finished yet."

London's preparations for yesterday's contest were far from ideal. They finished up their National League campaign in Leitrim on April 7 and had to cancel challenge matches against Louth and Wicklow after Croke Park banned them from travelling 'abroad'. That forced them to settle for training matches between themselves.

It looked as though that lack of game time might cost the Exiles when they almost conceded a goal inside a minute of the throw-in, Declan Traynor parrying over Adrian Marren's shot, and three poor wides hinted at a return to the old days when teams travelled to Ruislip and won with minimum fuss. But how wrong we were.

In an epic eight-minute spell, London fired an unanswered 1-4, with Lorcan Mulvey grabbing the goal on 11 minutes after being expertly teed up by Greg Crowley and Ciaran McCallion.

Utterly dominant in midfield, where the outstanding Mark Gottsche towered above the men in black, London were in control and looked to make that count on the scoreboard when Crowley was fouled in the area by Philip Greene.

Sligo native Padraig McGoldrick, who won an All-Ireland junior title with his home county, stepped up to take the penalty but his shot was weak and easily saved by Greene. His day would get even worse in the second half.

A couple of late scores from Sligo cut the gap to four at the interval – 1-6 to 0-5, but London pulled clear with four of the first five points after the restart.

PROTECT

Their hopes were dealt a blow on 50 minutes when McGoldrick picked up a second yellow for a needless challenge, but a booming point from Mulvey gave London a six-point lead to protect in the final 15 minutes.

Sligo discovered their shooting boots in the closing stages, with Tony Taylor and skipper Charlie Harrison hitting braces to set up a tense finish. London's lack of games had caught up with them, and extra-time looked on the cards when Curran weaved through the middle in injury-time.

But there would be no late reprieve, Hughes seeing his effort hit the goal frame and bounce wide, consigning Sligo to a disastrous defeat.

"We knew all along it was going to be tough over here," said Sligo manager Kevin Walsh. "London have made huge strides over the last number of years and Ruislip is a hard place to travel to. But the game was there for us.

"The luck of the gods wasn't with us – we hit the woodwork twice from open goal chances and didn't even get a point out of either of them. That came back to haunt us."

Scorers – London: L Mulvey 1-2, M Gottsche 0-4 (1f, 1 '45'), C Magee 0-3, P McGoldrick (f), B Mitchell, S Kelly 0-1 each. Sligo: M Breheny 0-4 (2fs), T Taylor, C Harrison 0-3 each, A Marren 0-2 (1f), P Hughes, N Murphy 0-1 each.

London – D Traynor 8; K Lynam 6, S Curran 7, D McGreevy 7; S Hannon 8, S Mulligan 8, T Gaughan 8; M Gottsche 9, C Doyle 8; G Crowley 8, L Mulvey 8, B Mitchell 7; P McGoldrick 5, C McCallion 6, C Magee 8. Subs: B Collins 7 for Lynam (16), P Geraghty 7 for Mitchell (50), S Kelly 7 for McCallion (59), D Dunleavy 6 for Doyle (67), E McConville 6 for Mulligan (68).

Sligo – P Greene 6; K Cawley 5, N Ewing 6, R Donovan 6; C Harrison 8, A McIntyre 6, B Curran 6; S Gilmartin 5, T Taylor 7; B Egan 6, P Hughes 6, S McManus 6; M Breheny 7, A Marren 7, F Quinn 6. Subs: J Kilcullen 6 for Gilmartin (46), N Murphy 6 for Egan (50).

Ref – P O'Sullivan (Kerry)

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