London Exiles finally make it to Main Street after beating Leitrim
Connacht SFC Semi-final replay: London 2-11 Leitrim 1-13
If what happened next didn’t stun London it did everyone else in Dr Hyde Park, as McCallion waltzed in for their second goal, right on 30 minutes, Damian Dunleavy finding the unmarked Séamus Hannon in the foundation.
Just before the break, Leitrim managed to raise an attack, Robbie Lowe bursting forward, his shot at goal clipping the crossbar and skirting over.
Little did we realise then, but it was a sign of things to come. Still, some of us in the press room had to adjust our laptops, trying to type in the half-time scoreline: London 2-10, Leitrim 0-2, or 14 points in front.
Indeed Leitrim were greeted by a hushed silence when appearing for the second half, their loyal supporters clearly fearful how much worse things might get, even with the wind in their backs.
But they were soon cheering, then roaring, and eventually hysterical as one of the potentially great championship comebacks looked well underway.
Four sweet placed kicks in succession for Kevin Conlon was a sign of things to come (he’d finish with 0-8), Leitrim’s run of scores only briefly interrupted on 43 minutes by another from Mulvey. London would not score again.
Every ball Leitrim touched turned to gold, but they needed a goal, and knew it too. When it came, on 61 minutes, Conlon’s long ball deftly flicked into the net by James Glancy, it suddenly seemed like Leitrim’s game to loose, even with a four-point deficit to close.
More incredible again is the fact Leitrim probably could have snatched it, or at least forced a draw, had two late and very open scoring chances not been sent either side of the posts: a 70th minute free taken by Conlon, perhaps a little hastily, was clipped slightly left; 90 seconds later Glancy finally worked himself into a scoring position, only to drift his shot slightly right.
By then time had run out for Leitrim, and run just perfectly for London in the moment of GAA history.
LONDON: D Traynor; P Butler, S Curran, D McGreevy; S Hannon (capt), S Mulligan, T Gaughan (0-2); P Geraghty, C Doyle; G Crowley (1-0), D Dunleavy, C McCallion (1-1); E O’Neill (0-2), L Mulvey (0-5, 0-4 frees), C Magee (0-1). Subs: E McConville for Hannon (half-time), S Kelly for McCallion (44 mins), B Mitchell for Dunleavy, C Daly for Doyle (both 60 mins), B Collins for Magee (64 mins). Yellow cards: P Geraghty (22 mins), C McCallion (24 mins), G Crowley (31 mins), T Gaughan (64 mins), C Doyle (68 mins), (70 mins).
LEITRIM: C McCrann; F McMorrow, C Egan, G Reynolds; D Beck, E Williams, B Prior; D Sweeney, B Brennan; P Brennan (0-1, free), E Mulligan (capt) (0-1, free), P McGowan; K Conlon (0-8, 0-6 frees, one 45), J Glancy (1-0), R Lowe (0-3). Subs: C Clarke for Sweeney (8 mins, inj), B McDonald for Mulligan (14 mins, inj), S McWeeney for Egan (half-time), R Cox for McGowan (51 mins). Yellow cards: B Brennan (58 mins)
Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath)