London so close to clearing that final hurdle

London came within two minutes of reaching their first ever Connacht final before late Leitrim rally

London’s Lorcan Mulvey and Robbie Lowe of Leitrim. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

London’s Lorcan Mulvey and Robbie Lowe of Leitrim. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho


There is micro and there is macro and the championship has room for all. The micro first. London came within two minutes of reaching their first ever Connacht final in Carrick-On-Shannon yesterday, their babel of accents almost melding as a single voice to send Leitrim packing.

In the end, the home side dug out the final two points of the game to force a draw, 0-13 to 2-7. The replay is set for Hyde Park next Sunday. Any thoughts that they might be able to bring it to Ruislip were scotched immediately after the game, with capacity concerns in the London venue mooted as the reason.

If they were miffed at all, the London management swallowed their tongue about it. They’ve endured enough sniffy asides down the years. It’s moisture off a mallard at this stage.

“We are a serious team,” said manager Paul Coggins afterwards. “I have always said that. All we want to do is play football to the best of our ability, knock down the walls, keep going. Leitrim know what we are like, Sligo know what we are like and more importantly we know what we are like.”

Goals in either half from Cavan man Lorcan Mulvey and Mayo man Seán Kelly kept them in a game that Leitrim dominated for long stretches. Both sides lost their best player in the first half, Leitrim’s marquee forward Emlyn Mulligan limping off after 15 minutes and London’s stylish midfielder Mark Gottsche doing likewise on the half hour. It robbed the game of what little stardust it had going for it.

But the 7,698 who came to Páirc Seán MacDiarmada didn’t make the trip expecting stardust. They expected what they got – a cigarette-paper tight game with sweat the greatest virtue on either side. Leitrim’s midfield pair of Darren Sweeney and Brendan Brennan were outstanding and had Mulligan stayed on the field the home side would surely have found the scores to cash in.

As it was, they kicked 13 wides to London’s three. And they never got the goal that would have killed them off.

So both sides live to fight another day. And whatever happens, London will play four championship matches in a single summer. Big-time stuff, however small the stakes. Up north, the macro considerations got a thorough rinsing through.

Donegal met Down for an arm-wrestle in Breffni Park and just about kept their hand from touching the candle. A nip-and-tuck encounter was never totally in their gift but they came through it all the same, thankful as ever to Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden to see them home by 0-12 to 0-9 in the end.

In many ways, it was a cookie-cutter Donegal win. They bucked out to an early lead that they never relinquished despite Down gradually finding a way into the game. Murphy, McFadden and Patrick McBrearty had them 0-6 to 0-2 ahead after 22 minutes and although Down hauled them back to a two-point lead at half-time, James McCartan’s side were always at arm’s length.

Donegal are in their third Ulster final in a row and they haven’t had to come through many tougher test to reach any of them. They endured despite losing both Frank McGlynn and Ryan Bradley to first-half head injuries.

Though they’re starting to look light on numbers, they’re still finding a way.