Westmeath book Deise date as Phelan and Finn call time on 'great days' with Exiles
WESTMEATH 1-15 London 0-11 All-Ireland SHC Qualifier
London hurling manager Eamonn Phelan has stepped down after the Exiles' defeat to Westmeath in Ruislip.
The Kilkenny native, who guided London to the Nicky Rackard Cup in 2011 and Christy Ring success last year, said he is planning to return to Ireland.
Phelan also guided London to league success this year and on Saturday his charges had an opportunity to build a winning lead in the first half but squandered chance after chance, allowing Westmeath back into the game in the second period.
The visitors capitalised through Derek McNicholas, Brendan Murtagh and Robbie Greville.
A goal from Murtagh on 50 minutes proved the decisive score for Westmeath after Cork's Martin Finn – who has also retired – had corrected London's wayward shooting with three quick frees before the interval. While this left the Exiles leading by 0-7 to 0-6 at the break, the momentum was turning.
The stiff breeze, that favoured the Exiles in the first half, was seized upon by Westmeath as those missed opportunities returned to haunt the home side.
"It was a potential banana skin coming over here but we performed well," said Westmeath manager Brian Hanley. "We created three goal chances in the first half and if we had taken them it would have been very different.
"We upped our performance 60-70pc – traditionally we always do and I expected that to happen.
"It looked like it was going to go down to the wire and the goal certainly helped.
"The amazing thing about that was we made four tackles to get the ball before we won the free. Our discipline was very good, I'm very happy with that and I'm full of optimism."
The Exiles struggled with their first touch throughout while Westmeath were surer, more accurate and had the outstanding player on the pitch in Derek McNicholas. He hit 0-10 in total, seven of those strikes coming from placed balls. "There was 12 points missed in the first half and seven of them were scoreable chances," said Phelan.
"Playing against the breeze in the second half, I didn't think we played too bad, but they got a goal and that gave them the breathing space."
His sentiments were echoed by Finn who won a Christy Ring Cup with the Exiles last year.
"We just weren't good enough today," said Finn. "We missed too many opportunities and that's my last game for London.
"It would have been nice to get a win in the Liam MacCarthy," added the 33-year-old, "but it wasn't to be today. I've had some great days with London but the injuries are catching up now."
Scorers – Westmeath: D McNicholas 0-10 (7fs), B Murtagh 1-1, R Greville 0-3 (1f), J Shaw 0-1. London: M Finn 0-5 (3fs), D Reale 0-2, J Walsh, PJ Rowe, M Duggan, S Lambert 0-1 each.
Westmeath – P Collins 7; L Varley 7, T Gallagher 6, P Fennell 6; D Fennell 7, A McGrath 7, A Price 7; E Price 6, J Clarke 7; B Murtagh 8, A Craig 6, D McNicholas 8; N O'Brien 6, R Greville 8, J Shaw 7. Subs: T Egan 6 for Varley (42), A Clarke 6 for Craig (45), S Power 7 for J Clarke (67), B O'Mara 6 for Shaw (69).
London – D Russell 6; C McAlinden 6, B Costelloe 6, D Healy 6; B Healy 6, B Regan 7, J Walsh 7; PJ Rowe 7, H Vaughan 6; S Lambert 7, J Maher 5, D Maher 6; M Finn 6, Tony Dunne 6, D Reale 7. Subs: S Frawley 6 for Dunne (h-t), L Hands 6 for D Maher (39), M Duggan 7 for Rowe (62), E Cooney 6 for Vaughan (69).
Ref – C Lyons (Cork)