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London ‘tired of hard luck story’ after Antrim defeat

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London manager Michael Maher has said he is “tired of a hard luck story” after they fell short against Antrim in their Tailteann Cup premliminary quarter-final in Corrigan Park.

A victory over Offaly was the high point of the year for the Exiles but they suffered a heavy defeat to Galway in the Connacht Championship.

Picking up a win and a draw in the league – as well as some narrow losses – showed the potential for the side this year despite the ups and downs of the season.

Today’s match was in the melting pot throughout until the Saffrons netted a goal to settle the tie in added-time.

Maher told RTÉ Sport: “We’ve been in these knockout games the last three years and come out the wrong side. Listen, the reality is we had 25 players today and every one of them went to the well.

“I thought we were unbelievable, really, really good. We gave away a couple of poor goals. Down the other end we created five, six good goal scoring chances. I thought we cut Antrim open at times and that’s a really good Antrim team.

“We paid them ultimate respect, the amount of work we did analysis wise to try and find flaws in their game and it was tough to find them. They had plenty of strengths to their attack which we had to try and nullify.

“Look, after a disappointing game against Limerick last week, I think we were probably looked at as cannon fodder coming in today but I don’t think we were anything like that. I don’t think a four-point scoreline tells the tale of that game.

“It was a last minute goal that gave them that kind of breathing space but up to that point we were. The game was there for the taking. We didn’t quite get it but I’m really proud of the boys.”

A black card for Cahir Healy was a setback – something which frustrated the London boss – feeling there could have been more today.

“I’m struggling with this black card rule slightly because I thought two of our boys were taken down in the very same manner and one didn’t get spoken to and one got a yellow.

“Just for me there needs to be consistency across the board, I think Cahir’s (foul) was a black card. I don’t dispute that myself but I felt that there could have been two black cards for them at the same time but it’s if buts and maybes.

“So yeah, it was a setback, it wasn’t the winning and the losing of that game by any stretch of imagination because we started the second half really well and put ourselves in a position to be in the stab of winning the game with five minutes to go. That’s football, isn’t i?t”

Antrim manager Andy McEntee shakes hands with London manager Michael Maher

Maher has targeted more home-grown players in the bid to improve their results each year. He feels the work being done by the London County Board will bear fruit.

They currently have five within their panel. He feels that must jump considerably.

“The number for me is 12. You need 12 London-born players, which will happen over the next, I would say six to seven years. You need to be bringing two in per year.

“And with the group that are there now, we hope that they spend the next 10, 12 years of their career with London. And every year, then if you’ve got a base of 12 and you’re looking for a 28, 29-man squad, and you can retain some good Irish lads that are there for a while during their careers. Cahir is a prime example, plus Matt Moynihan, and David Walsh.

“Those guys, they give you a number of years service. You can really build a bit of consistency. But yeah, look, that is, that’s the transient nature of London football. And you need the Irish-born lads and you need the London-born lads, but the London-born lads have to be ready.

“The county board are putting in massive measures to improve the structures under age, they’re exposing the teenagers to inter-county football back home.

“The Under-17s are in the Connacht Minor Championship for the first time this year. There is a London-born junior team bringing players to the senior. Long may it continue.”

Antrim boss Andy McEntee was just pleased to progress after the titanic battle.

He explained: “I was very relieved to see that last goal go in there. You’d have to say that London really put it up for us. For long periods of the match, it didn’t look good.

“You’ve got to give London credit for that though, putting pressure on the vast majority of our shots, but at the same time, you would expect the calibre of player that we have, you’d expect them to just be a little bit more accurate.

“There was nothing that shocked us, they just did it very well. I mean, they defended really, really well, whereas we won a lot of their kickouts. The ones that they did win seemed to catch us a little bit open at times as well.

“So they were well-disciplined, well-drilled, well-coached, so they definitely caused us trouble.”

Antrim await the quarter-final draw on Monday morning. They can’t meet Sligo due to a group phase clash already.

McEntee added: “Whoever we have to play we’ve got to dust ourselves down and get ready and hopefully put in a better performance next weekend.”

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