Sport Hurling

Friday 17 November 2017

Phelan hails his lords of the Ring


London continued their rapid progress by adding the Christy Ring Cup to their trophy cabinet in their first season at this level, having garnered the Nicky Rackard memorial just 12 months ago.

Wicklow were the favourites but, according to London manager Eamonn Phelan, there was never any doubt within his camp that they would prevail once they returned to the expanses of GAA headquarters.

"I always believed we had good hurlers in London," said Phelan. "For myself, the biggest thing was to try and get out, get lads to work hard and believe they were good enough if they put the effort in, and they got their due reward again.

"The thing was to get to Croke Park. We knew if we got here we had the players. We knew we had the pace, we knew the lads could deliver.

"They came at us in the first five minutes and we looked under serious pressure. We weathered the storm and after that took control of the situation and really looked comfortable."

London are the first county that has come up from the third tier to win the Christy Ring, and while the margin was undeniably flattering, there can be no doubt about the merit of their success over last year's beaten finalists.

Jonathan Maher terrorised Wicklow with a brilliant performance that yielded 3-4 from play. The Kilburn Gaels man had 1-3 on the board in the first half, and Wicklow boss Casey O'Brien was forced to replace Jim Connors after just 18 minutes. The strange thing was that Wicklow looked the more dangerous in the opening exchanges, dominating possession, with midfielder Eamon Kearns bursting through the middle on a number of occasions.

They wasted a host of good opportunities and, after a shaky start, London's full-back line grew into the game, with Andy O'Brien in particular not having the anticipated impact.

The teams were level three times early on but when Maher scored his first goal in the 20th minute, after Tony Dunne had kicked the sliotar towards the Wicklow net, there were five points between them.

It got even better for London two minutes later, when Martin Finn blasted an unstoppable shot to the roof of the net from a 20-metre free, after being fouled himself.

Enan Glynn kept his side in contention with a close-range finish for a goal in the 24th minute, while Jonathan O'Neill weighed in with five of his 11 points.

Hard though they tried after the resumption, the Garden County never got closer than four points. What they really needed was a goal but instead, it was London who pounced via Maher's nonchalant finish that deceived Joe Murphy in the 49th minute.

O'Neill and Wayne O'Gorman pointed almost immediately to reduce the margin to five once again, but Tommy Williams made two outstanding saves, one from O'Neill's well-struck penalty that bounced wickedly up off the turf.

Maher bagged his hat-trick in the fourth minute of injury-time after a classy interchange between Finn and Kevin Walsh, and that was the cue for the celebrations to begin.

"People said we weren't playing well but most of our games were away," explained Phelan. "We had serious belief in ourselves and we knew we had a big game in us."

Man of the Match: Jonathan Maher (London)

Scorers -- London: J Maher 3-4, M Finn 1-5 (1-5f), J Egan 0-4, C Quinn 0-2, P Sloane, K Walsh, T Dunne 0-1 each. Wicklow: J O'Neill 0-11 (6f, 1 '65'), E Glynn 1-1, E Kearns, A O'Brien 0-2 each, W O'Gorman 0-1 each.

London -- T Williams 8; E Walsh 8, B Costello 7, G Fennelly 7; L Mackey 7, D Maher 7, M Walsh 7; C Quinn 8, PJ Rowe 7; P Sloane 7, J Egan 8, S Egan 5; J Maher 9, M Finn 8, T Dunne 6. Subs: B Smyth 6 for S Egan (h-t), K Walsh 6 for Sloane (52), E Cooney 6 for Dunne (63), H Vaughan 6 for Smyth (70+2).

Wicklow -- J Murphy 7; B Cuddihy 7, G Keogh 7, J Connors 5; J Henderson 7, S Kelly 7, G Bermingham 7; E Kearns 8, R Keddy 7; T Doyle 6 , W O'Gorman 7, E Dunne 6; E Glynn 7, J O'Neill 8, A O'Brien 7. Subs: E O'Neill 6 for Connors (18), C Moorehouse for Doyle (h-t), L Kennedy 6 for Dunne (h-t).

Ref -- K Brady (Louth)

Irish Independent

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