Leinster SHC: four off as London make the drop

May 24, 2014

Westmeath's Tommy Doyle with London's Keith Killilea during the Leinster SHC relegation play off at Cusack Park Mullingar
Westmeath 2-12
London 1-12

London have been relegated to the Christy Ring Cup after losing to Westmeath in a game which saw four sending offs at Cusack Park, Mullingar.

Alan Devine struck two late goals to give the Lake County their first win of the Leinster SHC round-robin series which condemns the Exiles to the drop. However, Brian Hanley's men could yet join them in the second tier next year if they fail to beat the Christy Ring Cup winners in a promotion / relegation playoff on June 14.

Westmeath's victory also assures Carlow of their Liam MacCarthy Cup status for another year.

In what was by no means a dirty game, two players from each side saw red. London's Darren Moore was first to go on the stroke of half-time. Westmeath's Ciaran Curley was sent off for the second time in six days 13 minutes into the second period, this time on a straight red.

London corner back Conor Hickey was also issued with a straight red card for a wild pull in the 61st minute, while Niall O'Brien's dismissal in injury-time meant that it was 13 versus 13 at the end.

With Eoin Kelly in fine scoring form - the former Offaly goalkeeper from Lusmagh finished with a personal tally of 1-8 - London led by 0-7 to 0-4 at the break and continued to lead until the 58th minute when Westmeath finally regained parity. Having passed up on five goals in the preceding hour, the hosts netted twice through Devine in the closing 10 minutes before Kelly's late major from a free set up a tense finish.

Points from Henry Vaughan and Eoin Kelly had handed London an early 0-2 to 0-0 lead before the home side levelled through white flags from Niall O'Brien and Derek McNicholas after 14 minutes.

Kelly and O'Brien traded further scores before the Exiles enjoyed a fine spell of dominance which yielded four unanswered points from Kelly (three frees) and Martin Duggan to lead by 0-7 to 0-3 by the 31st minute.

Philip Gilsenan replied for Westmeath before the visitors were reduced to 14 men just before half-time.

Alan Devine had the gap down to two points within 40 seconds of the restart, only for Kilburn Gaels clubman Vaughan and Stephen Lambert to hit back for the visitors. Gilsenan's second point made it 0-6 to 0-9 and they were soon level thanks to a trio of points from O'Brien, Devine and Aonghus Clarke.

An Eoin Kelly brace put London back into a 0-11 to 0-9 lead, and their hopes were given a further boost when Westmeath's Curley was given his marching orders. But the Lake County dug in and Alan Devine left the minimum in it before the otherwise unerring Kelly missed the chance to restore the visitors' two-point lead from a free.

Both sides missed goal chances before corner back Liam Varley finally brought Westmeath level in the 58th minute. All the momentum was with Brian Hanley's men at this juncture as Conor Hickey became the second London player to receive his marching orders, and Niall O'Brien gave Westmeath the lead for the first time from a free, 0-12 to 0-11.

The breakthrough goal finally arrived in the 63rd minute when Eoin Price - who had missed a sitter moments earlier - set up Devine for a neat finish. Kelly got a point back from a free before Castlepollard clubman Devine raised his second green flag.

But Tommy Harrell's men weren't done and Kelly's late goal from a 20-metre free left the hosts hanging on for the win.

Westmeath - P Collins; K Duncan, T Doyle, L Varley (0-1); P Reilly, A Craig, G Greville; P Gilsenan (0-1), C Curley; R Greville, E Price, A Clarke (0-3); A Devine (2-3), D McNicholas, N O'Brien (0-4, 3f). Sub: T Gallagher for D McNicholas.

London - J Barrett; C Hickey, R Fox, C McAlinden; E Cooney, PJ Rowe, S Frawley; D Moore, D Egan (0-1); M Lynch, M Duggan (0-1), K Killilea; H Vaughan (0-2), E Kelly (1-8, 1-7f), P Cocoman. Subs: L Hands for P Cocoman, B Regan for M Lynch, P Barry for H Vaughan, M Holohan for K Killilea.

Referee - E Hassan.

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