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London find their rhythm

COMPETITION for places in the London hurling team is hotting up and after Saturday’s win over Mayo, manager Eamonn Phelan challenged his players to prove they’re worthy of a place in his side.

Martin Finn returned from injury, while Lee Mackey and Brian Smyth both debuted, as the likes of Gary Hill and Niall Forde were forced to watch from the bench.

Phelan has continued to experiment with his team throughout the league and should now have a better idea of what his best starting line-up is, although the London boss says it’ll be a while before he’s certain.

“I still don’t know what it is because we haven’t had a hurling match among ourselves in training yet,” said Phelan after the 3-18 to 1-10 win against Mayo at Ruislip.

“We’ve just gone from game to game. Everyone is getting an opportunity. Most of them have played inter-county hurling but a lot of lads aren’t taking the opportunities.

“We’re giving other lads a go and I think it’s starting to drill into the boys when they see Gary Hill, Niall Forde and Paul Horkan sitting on the bench.

“Lads are starting to wake up and realise they’re under pressure. As I’ve said all along, we’re looking at giving lads an opportunity and that’s what the league is there for.”

After poor performances in the defeats to Meath and Kildare, Phelan was satisfied with Saturday’s improved display but there’s still plenty of work to be done before May’s clash with the Royals in the Christy Ring Cup.

He said: “We still didn’t hurl to our full potential, but it was a better performance than what we’ve shown so far, especially in the second-half.”

Martin Finn’s return has given London a big boost. Having had knee surgery in January, the Corkman was back in the London shirt last weekend and made a contribution of 1-6.

“Martin is a serious man,” said Phelan. “Besides the hurling, he’s a great leader both on and off the field and he brings that calmness to everything we associate with London hurling. He was outstanding.”

A win away to Roscommon on Sunday (Athleague, 2.30pm) could send London into the Division 2B final. Phelan added: “There’s a good chance we might still get into a league final but it’s just about getting wins under our belt at this stage and getting a bit of confidence.

“Even if we win a National League, it’s not good enough for the lads who are here. Championship is what they’re about.”

For match report/analysis of London’s win over Mayo, see this week’s print edition of The Irish Post.

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