Derry hurlers dig deep but can't escape defeat against London
Christy Ring Cup round 1: Derry 1-18 London 1-20
Derry manager Collie McGurk struggled to hide the disappointment etched all over his face after his side’s two point defeat to London in Ballinascreen.
Having trailed 1-12 to 0-8 at the break, the Oakleafers fought back resiliently to lead 1-18 to 1-16 in the 68th minute.
But with the finish line in sight, Derry’s shooting malfunctioned while London nailed four back to back points to snatch the game in injury time.
“At this level you can’t miss that number of wides,” explained McGurk.
“We dug hard, we dug really hard in the first 20 minutes of the second half to get ourselves in the position to win the match, having been eight down at half time.
“And it’s disappointing to lose it the way we did.”
The home side struggled to find any real rhythm or systems of play, particularly in the first half.
In contrast, opponents London impressed throughout.
The Exiles dominated the middle third for most of the game, with Kevin Reid, Kevin O’Loughlin and Henry Vaughan bossing the skies.
And in clearly well-rehearsed and choreographed moves, James Barrett’s mighty puck-outs by-passed the Derry half-back line to find lethal recipients, particularly Aaron Sheehan who, with ten points to his name, didn’t need a second invitation to convert his scores.
“Look they had a lot more preparation done and you could see the sharpness from them was a gear up from us,” McGurk continued.
“We were gathering players five days before a match. That doesn’t help, put it that way.
“That’s the extent of our preparation for the championship since we played Armagh in the final league game in the middle of March.”
On a disappointing day for Derry, Cormac O’Doherty shone brightest with 11 points, including two from play.
His score in the 29th minute was one to savour, as the young Slaughtnail free-taker sold two delicious dummies to different defenders before sailing the sliotar straight over the black spot.
But other than O’Doherty’s scores, the first half belonged to London who’s raucous dug-out whopped and hollered every small battle they won on the field, including the key score of Kevin O’Loughlin’s 34th minute penalty, as the Exiles ran in five points to the good at half-time.
Derry were much better after the break. Sé McGuigan’s goal was the catalyst for a creditable fight-back, and with Naoise Woldron and Chrissy McKaigue also weighing in with big scores the Oakleafers systematically reeled London in.
But, feisty right to the end, the Exiles never wilted in the strong south Derry sunshine.
Three late, late points from that man Sheehan and their sole survivor from their last Christy Ring win – Henry Vaughan – proved just enough to snatch victory at the death.
Down, but not out, the Derry manager concluded that he was unsure whether dual stars Chrissy McKaigue and Brendan Rogers would be available next time out.
“We’ve Armagh in a week’s time. If we can get a result there it leaves us with a potential knock out game against Down here in the 2nd of June.
“We didn’t plan on having them against Armagh but we’ll have to see what happens now.”
London: James Barrett, Conor Hickey, Brian Regan, Lee Murphy, Cillian Burke (0-1), Kevin Reid (0-1), Chris McAlinden, Fergal Collins (0-2), Owen Shiel, Kevin O’Loughlin (1-2, 1 pen, 1 sideline), Richard Murphy (0-3, 2f), Henry Vaughan, Aaron Sheehan (0-10, 6f), Colin Nelson (0-1), Shane Lawless.
Subs: Mark Dwyer for R Murphy (45), Alan O’Leary for L Murphy (47), Joseph Troy (0-1) for O Shiel (47), Cian Lordan for S Lawless (68).
Yellow cards: 2: Shane Lawless, Joseph Troy
Derry: Michael Kirkpatrick, Darragh McCloskey, Sean Cassidy, Colm Murphy, Paul Cleary, Cormac McKenna, Jack Phelan, Mark McGuigan (0-1), Cian Waldron (0-1), Chrissy McKaigue (0-2), Meehaul McGrath, Cormac O’Doherty (0-11, 1 ‘65’, 8f), Sé McGuigan (1-0), Brendan Rogers, Naoise Waldron (0-3).
Subs: Ciaran Steele for J Phelan (29), Brian Cassidy for C Steele (51).
Yellow cards: 7:Colm Murphy, Cormac McKenna (2), Jack Phelan, Meehaul McGrath, Brendan Rogers, Naoise Waldron
Red cards: Cormac McKenna (70th minute)
Referee: John Keane (Galway)