June 06, 2012
Mulligan denies Exiles at the death
By Damian Dolan - The Irish World
London's wait for a first Connacht Championship win since 1977 goes on after Leitrim left it agonisingly late to snatch victory at Ruislip on Sunday.
The Exiles are used to championship hard luck tales, with Leitrim's visit 15 years ago providing one of the most heartbreaking and they returned to dish out more pain on Paul Coggins' gallant London.
Desperately holding on to the lead given to them by Conor McGoldrick's classy first half goal, the home side battened down the hatches and clung on to their slender advantage for all their might.
But the Exiles finally caved in when Shane Moran levelled with three minutes of normal time remaining. Leitrim were in the ascendancy and in truth had been for much of the second half.
Once level, there was only going to be one winner. Points from man of match Emlyn Mulligan and full forward James Glancy edged Barney Breen and George Dugdale's side over the line and set up a semi-final meeting with Mayo in Castlebar on June 24.
For London, it was another chapter added to their already overflowing book of Connacht Championship hard luck tales. Just what do the Exiles have to do to emulate the heroes of 1977? Just how many more times can they come so close, only to be denied at the death, and yet keep coming back for more?
Coggins couldn't hide his disappointment - his face revealed all one needed to know - but no doubt the London boss will lift his weary troops, who gave their all, in time for the qualifiers, just as he did after last year's extra-time defeat to Mayo.
The truth had to be faced, however, that while Leitrim probably deserved their victory on the balance of play, for London this was another one that got away.
Starting with intensity and a real pace to their game, McGoldrick deservedly gave the home side a second minute lead, with the Exiles having first use of the wind.
For a time leading up to throw in it seemed the skies over Ruislip would be kind, but it was not to be. Sunday was a wretched day; the heavens opened and never relented, making for difficult conditions underfoot.
London, though, were moving well, finding their men and asking questions of the Leitrim defence. The scores, however, were not coming.
After Mulligan had levelled the score in the eleventh minute, McGoldrick's free went wide - it was already London's fifth wide. But Colfer edged the Exiles back in front with a free.
Cox was crowded out by three London jerseys and seemed lucky to be awarded a free, which Mulligan expertly converted. The Leitrim centre forward seemed to glide around Ruislip. Efficient in possession and always available to link play, he never seemed to waste a ball.
After London's bright start the second quarter would see Leitrim in the ascendancy. Colm Clarke, Croal and Mulligan (free) nudged the away side into a valuable three-point lead, and Coggins had seen enough, summoning for Ciaran Bonner.
Before he could get the ex-Donegal star onto the field, however, the man expected to make way, Colfer, pointed after Mulvey had hit the post. Colfer had saved himself and McGoldrick would instead make way.
Before that switch could be made, though, McGoldrick latched onto a long ball over the top and despatched it expertly into the far corner of Cathal McGrann's net. It would be McGoldrick's last contribution.
Reinvigorated, Colfer added two quick-fire frees and the Exiles had turned a three-point deficit into a 1-5 to 0-5 half-time lead. London had racked up five first half wides, while Leitrim had been efficient in front of the posts.
Leitrim would have the wind in the second half, Sean Kelly extended the Exiles' lead, after indecision at the back by Leitrim allowed a long free to bounce.
When Clarke had time and space to point, only to slice horribly wide, it seemed it just might after all be London's day. Mulligan continued to carry Leitrim's main threat and he pointed superbly, popping up in space having started the move.
In an attempt to nullify Mulligan, Coggins withdrew Shane Mulligan and switched Seamus Hannon onto Leitrim's star man. Hannon would pick up a yellow card and enjoy little more success than Mulligan.
Enda Williams closed the gap further with Leitrim beginning to boss things again, but Colfer restored London's three-point margin after Tony Gaughan, Sean McVeigh and John Scanlon had combined.
At full forward, James Glancy was becoming a growing presence and his point was followed a minute later by Darren Sweeney's strike. The away side were getting up a head of steam, while London were struggling to escape their own half and get Bonner into the game. Leitrim, though, would rack up nine second half wides.
London had a lucky escape when Croal was sent through on goal only to shoot wide under pressure from McVeigh. The pressure was mounting and the clock just wasn't ticking fast enough for the Exiles.
With three minutes to go, Moran tied the scores. One couldn't escape the feeling that if Leitrim levelled they would go and win. They got that chance when the otherwise excellent Gaughan fouled Wayne McKeon and who else but Mulligan despatched the ball over the bar.
James Glancy immediately added what would prove the winning score, with Kelly's run immediately giving O'Neill the chance to leave just a point between the sides once again.
London went in search of the score they needed to force extra-time, but three added minutes would not yield the home side the point they so desperately craved, ensuring 2012, just like 2011, 2005 and 1997, will go down as yet another near miss.
Leitrim: Cathal McGrann; James Glancy, Ciaran Egan, Paddy Maguire; Colm Clarke (0-1), Fabian McMorrow, Wayne McKeon; Darren Sweeney, Daniel Lowe (0-1); Paddy McGowan, Emlyn Mulligan (0-5, 3f), Paul Brennan; Ray Cox, James Glancy (0-2), Adrian Coal (0-1). Subs: Robbie Lowe for McGowan (h-t), Enda Williams (0-1) for James Glancy (41mins), Shane Moran (0-1) for Lowe (46mins), Kevin Conlon for Croal (62mins), Colin Ryan for Brennan (66mins).
London: Evan Byrne: Peter Sherry, Sean McVeigh, David McGreevy; Tony Gaughan, Shane Muligan, Seamus Hannon; Lorcan Mulvey, Mark Gottsche; Sean Kelly (0-1), Kevin O'Leary, Michael Mullins; Padraig McGoldrick (1-1), Eoin O'Neill (0-1f), Lloyd Colfer (0-5, 4f). Subs: Ciaran Bonner for McGoldrick (33mins), John Scanlon for Mulligan (45mins), Paul McDermott for Mullins (51mins), Ciaran McCallion for Colfer (57mins), Peter Finn for O'Leary (68mins).
Yellow cards: Mulvey (39mins), Hannon (54mins).