Exiles take Division 2B hurling crown

 Jonathan Maher, London, in action against Willie Mahady, Meath. Picture: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

London 1-16 Meath 1-14

Galway's Gerard Hennelly fired 1-7 as London captured Allianz Division 2B hurling honours at St. Conleth's Park this afternoon.

The Exiles braved a strong Meath resistance to take victory, having lead by nine points with eight minutes remaining, but Eamonn Phelan's charges just managed to hang on at the full-time whistle.

For long periods of the opening half it looked like the Royals were heading for honours.

Cillian Farrell's charges led by 0-4 to 0-1 after 14 minutes, with a trio of points from leading scorer Stephen Clynch, while half back James Kelly was also on target.

London goalkeeper Darren Russell was forced to pull off an early save following a Patrick Conneely goal shot after just 90 seconds.

Meath found their range quickly and had two points on the board before Galway's Ger Hennelly opened London's account in the ninth minute from a free.

The Royals continued to look good in the 25th minute, leading 0-6 to 0-3 at this stage following a Conneely score.

London crept back into contention with Jonathan Maher snatching a 27th minute point after good work by Martin Duggan, to cut the gap to two points.

A 32nd minute penalty miss from Hennelly after an excellent block off the line by Meath corner-back Cormac Reilly kept Meath on top, but it wasn't long before the Exiles snuck through for a match-turning goal.

A high-ball delivered on top of the Meath backs, broke favourably 35 metres out with Ardrahan native Hennelly pouncing and pushing his side to a 1-4 to 0-6 interval lead.

This was a lead that London wouldn't relinquish with Meath held scoreless between the 40th and 54th minutes as London tagged on six points without reply.

Maher, Hennelly, Henry Vaughan and substitute Donie Reale on target to ensure a 1-11 to 0-7 lead.

Meath supporters were lifted by two excellent long-range points from substitutes Tom McGrath and Peter Durnin in quick succession to end the Royals scoring drought.

Former Tipperary All-Ireland Under 21 winner McGrath certainly proving effective, but forced to make a premature exit through injury with four minutes remaining, after his side had cut the gap to four points at that stage.

A nine-point deficit carved into further after London were held scoreless in the closing eight minutes, with Meath throwing everything at their opponents.

James Togher starting the Meath comeback with a well struck free, and then a goal from substitute Noel Kirby after a bad London clearance.

Clynch fired a brace of points to cut the gap to a goal with two minutes of normal time remaining.

At least one minute of injury-time was added, somehow referee Garrett Duffy found almost two minutes more, but all that Meath could manage was an eighth Clynch point as London held on at the death.

After the game London captain John Walsh received the cup from Leinster GAA Chairman Martin Skelly.

MEATH: S McGann; C Reilly, D Healy, W Mahady; J Kelly (0-1), J Togher (0-1, 1f), S Heavey; S Donoghue, S Morris; E Marsh, S Clynch (0-8, 4f, 1 '65), P Conneelly (0-1); A Gannon, M O'Sullivan, B Slevin. Subs: N Kirby (1-0) for Gannon (24); P Durnin (0-2) for Marsh (31); T McGrath for Slevin (HT); B Hanley for Donoghue (44); E Marsh for McGrath (67)

LONDON: D Russell; P Lane, B Costelloe, D Healy; D Maher (0-1), B Regan, J Walsh; PJ Rowe, H Vaughan (0-3); S Frawley, J Egan (0-1), T Dunne; G Hennelly (1-7, 5f), M Duggan (0-1), J Maher (0-2). Subs: D Reale for Frawley (HT); K Walsh for J Maher (47); L Hands for Dunne (60); S Lambert for Rowe (65).

REFEREE: Garrett Duffy (Antrim)

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