Sunday, 23 June 2013

London 0-11 v 1-15 Westmeath

Saturday 22nd June 2013
GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Preliminary Round Qualifier
Emerald GAA Grounds, Ruislip
Admission: £10.00
Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 300
Match Rating: 3

After a somewhat enforced break from groundhopping since what turned out to be my last football game of the season four weeks, today I headed to Ruislip to take in some hurling, a sport which I find most enjoyable to watch, and to witness what would be a historic day for the hurlers of London GAA.

The Emerald Grounds is located about a 20 minute walk from South Ruislip rail and underground station, and has not seen any development of its very basic facilities since my last visit a couple of years ago. The clubhouse remains impressive and imposing however, and is common for big occasions here, a couple of refreshment tents were erected outside the clubhouse. Programmes were on sale and today’s offering – 32 pages printed in all colour with plenty of interesting and informative articles and action photos – was a vast improvement from what was on offer on my previous visits, although still overpriced, at £3.00.

Today would be the first time that London have taken part in an All-Ireland Senior Hurling Qualifier, having earnt that right by lifting the second tier Christy Ring Cup last year. That also earnt them the right to take part in the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship for the first time, however they succumbed to a what was eventually a heavy defeat in Carlow in May, by 4-17 to 2-13. London won their league division 2B this year, winning four of the five games to earn promotion. Westmeath were also knocked out of the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship at the first time of asking, losing at home to Antrim, but has an identical league record to London in their Division 2A, winning four of their five games.

Despite a heavy rain shower ahead of kick off which followed frequent light rain showers throughout the morning, happily (considering the lack of cover at the ground) conditions remained dry throughout the match, albeit very overcast and gusty. The first half was fairly even, with scores for the most part remaining within a couple of points. London looked slightly the stronger team during the first half, taking advantage of the stiff breeze behind them, and they took a narrow 0-7 to 0-6 lead into the half time interval. They maybe should have had a more convincing lead though, sending 12 shots wide of the target.

London started the second half solidly too, and there seemed to be a real prospect that London could win their first ever tie in the All-Ireland hurling competition to set up a home tie with Waterford or Offaly in the next round. However, the game swung away from London around 15 minutes into the second half. After Westmeath had levelled the scores on nine points each, a long ball was delivered close to the goal and Brendan Murtagh managed to tap the ball into the net for what turned out to be the only goal of the game. Westmeath went on to completely dominate the rest of the match, opening up a comfortable lead that London never looked like they could claw back as they struggled to keep possession and get forward. In the dying minutes, Westmeath’s Paul Farrell was sent off for a second yellow card, but this had no impact on the game and it was Westmeath who progressed to the next round with a comfortable looking seven point margin, with Derek McNicholas arguably the different between the two sides, scoring eleven points. London may feel that this was a match that got away though, having been slightly the better side and led for the first two thirds of the match, but were blown away in the final third.

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