WHISPER it very quietly in London GAA circles, but with two wins out of two in Division Four of the Allianz National Football League the prospect of promotion is peeking over the horizon.
After a sensational opening weekend win away to Carlow, Michael Maher’s side maintained their perfect start to the new campaign by edging out Waterford 1-12 to 2-08 at a McGovern Park boosted by the free entry for fans.
Just like that opening weekend, it took another serious comeback to take the win and keep them joint top of the table alongside Sligo and Cavan, Killian Butler’s penalty and a host of frees from Chris Farley ultimately seeing them over the line.
With no game this weekend they next to go Leitrim before hosting Wexford, two games that provide a fantastic opportunity to better their 2018 league campaign which ended in two wins and one draw.
Remembering that there has been a two year lay-off for all county teams in Britain due to the pandemic, the hurling panels returned to inter-county action with defeats, albeit in differing circumstances.
In Division 2B it was a long Letterkenny afternoon for London’s hurlers as Donegal recorded a strong 3-16 to 0-08 win, while over in Dublin there were plenty of scores for Lancashire but ultimately no opening day win in Division 3B as they were outscored by Leitrim 4-16 to 2-08.
Sunday’s Division 3A clash at Páirc na hÉireann was a familiar one with Warwickshire hosting Monaghan.
Having dropped down from Division 2B, the home side were looking to hit the ground running against a side they came up against twice the last time they were in this division back in 2018.
Although the visitors were missing Fergal Rafter, they were able to keep their noses in front in what proved a combative first outing for both teams in trying conditions.
Things couldn’t have gone between for Warwickshire at the very start when Luke Hands capitalised on loose play in the Monaghan defence to fire home the game’s opening goal before Kelvin Magee followed up with his side’s first point.
Monaghan had to grind their way back into the game and did so with two points from James Slevin and a tremendous long range free by goalkeeper Hugh Byrne.
Magee then had two chances to land Warwickshire’s second goal, denied on both occasions by Byrne who stood firm at close range. Padraic Crehan was instrumental for the home side all afternoon but soon after he slotted over his first free of the match Monaghan took the lead thanks to Slevin’s quick ball into Colin Merrick, the midfielder making no mistake drilling beyond Patrick Hands.
Yet no sooner were they ahead than Warwickshire hit back, Crehan instinctively flicking the ball off a Monaghan defender and past Byrne for another goal.
It needed two frees from Niall Garland to ensure the slenderest of half-time advantages for Monaghan and with a gale blowing across the pitch in the second-half, attrition became the motto for the remainder of the game.
Substitute Alan Hayes nearly steered a low Crehan free goalward moments after the restart, before the John Mitchels man slotted over an equaliser. In the exchange of scores thereafter Monaghan outscored Crehan’s three frees with five points of their own, substitute Ciaran Guinan bagging two points in a lively cameo off the bench and captain Patrick Finnegan claiming an inspirational score from distance after a midfield steal.
Warwickshire kept pressing though, Hands sending over another free to reduce the gap to one point while Garland missed two wind-obstructed frees. Despite finding no final equaliser, given the lengthy layoff there were plenty of positives for Warwickshire to take forward into this weekend’s second league fixture away in Tyrone.
Warwickshire: P Hands; T Kelly, C Dineen, A Bannon; A Hands, J Collins, R Murray; D King, R Hogan; N Eames (0-1), P Crehan (1-5, 4f), O Coffey; L Hands (1-1, 1f), K Magee (0-1), M Keane. Subs: A Hayes (for Eames 35); C Cavanagh (for Kelly 44).
Monaghan: H Byrne (0-1, 1f); J Guinan, S McNally, C McAnespie; D Hughes, P Finnegan (0-1), C Gernon; C Merrick (1-0), A Kenny; N Garland (0-3, 3f), J Slevin (0-3), P Malone (0-1); P McKenna, C Flynn (0-1), C McNally. Subs: C Guinan (0-2, for Gernon 45), L McKenna (for Flynn 47).
Referee: K Brady (Louth)