Sunday, 10 July 2011

London 0-13 v 1-17 Waterford

Saturday 9th July 2011
GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 2
Emerald Grounds, Ruislip
Admission: £10.00
Programme: £2.00
Attendance: 1000 (estimate)
Match Rating: 3

Today was the first day of pre-season friendlies for the 2011-2012 season, however as friendlies are usually tepid affairs, especially this early in pre-season, it was not a difficult decision to take in a different form of football today, the Gaelic variety, to witness what was arguably the biggest game in London's history. Although I have been to the Emerald Grounds in Ruislip on several occasions, this would be the first time I went there primarily for a Gaelic football game, always previously going to watch hurling games there.

This was a historic day for the London GAA football team. Historically the whipping boys in Gaelic football, they had never won a game in the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship since its began in 1977 and have been in the bottom division of the National Football League for many years. However, emigration from Ireland to England in recent years has bolstered the London squad, and a strong sign of an upturn in fortunes for the London team came in the Connacht Championship last month when they took Mayo, of the First Division of the National Football League (London were in the bottom Fourth Division), to extra time before eventually losing. They followed that up with their first ever win in the All-Ireland by beating Fermanagh at Ruislip by 0-15 to 0-9. Although Waterford have always been strong in hurling, they have been also-rans at football. They played in Division 3 of the All-Ireland NFL this season, although they finished bottom, gaining just two wins from their seven games. In many ways, unbelievably considering their footballing record, London were considered by many as favourites for this game, as they are riding on a crest of a wave this season and had home advantage.

For my previous hurling visits, crowds have been in the low hundreds, however a bumper crowd was expected today, and was proven correct, with both lengths of the pitch thickly lined with spectators, and no less than three additional marquees were in place today. Full colour programmes were on sale today although was not good value at £2, containing just a welcome message, squad line-ups and a report from the Fermanagh match - and many, many pages of advertising.

It was crucial that London got a good start to this game, and they seemed to have got just that, in the opening couple of minutes scoring a point after a foul close in front of the posts. However, that lead was short-lived and proved to be the only time in the game when London were in the lead, as a mistake in the London midfield allowed a long range kick which looked like it was going wide, but the strong wind pulled the ball back to strike the post, and the ball fortunately dropped to Gary Hurney just a few yards out and he had the simple task of scoring a goal. Waterford went on to completely dominate the game from this point, helped by a strong wind behind them in the first half but also by London players making far too many basic errors with poor passes and also London's players losing their discipline. A difficult task was made even harder when London's Paul Geraghty was sent off for a second yellow card shortly before half time, and the half time score was 1-10 to 0-05 in Waterford's favour.

London certainly improved in the second half, although they never really looked like they would be able to make the game look interesting, and all hope really seemed to disappear midway through the second half when Ciaran McCallion was also shown a second yellow card for a wild sliding tackle to leave London two men short. Although London eventually scored more points in the second half, the difference was far too narrow and Waterford progressed to the next round with a comfortable final score of 1-17 against 0-13. A disappointing performance and result on their big day for London, however they should be able to build on their historic achievements and be more of a force next season.

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