By Damian Dolan
London manager Ciaran Deely is optimistic that Fearghal McMahon’s injury may not be as bad as first feared.
The St Brendan’s corner forward pulled up sharply clutching his right hamstring just before half-time in the Exiles’ 0-11 to 0-10 defeat to Limerick at McGovern Park on Sunday.
McMahon failed to reappear for the second half and Deely has ruled the former Monaghan U21 star out of Sunday’s trip to Division 4 favourites Derry.
“The doctor said he doesn’t think it’s as bad as we initially thought,” Deely told the Irish World.
“He’ll certainly be out for the Derry game and then you’d maybe looking at Wexford (10 February), but probably more likely Antrim (24 February).
“So not as bad as first feared, but it’s still a hamstring tear.
“When you lose a player of Fearghal’s undoubted quality, you’re losing out on a very, very good player. But it gives an opportunity to somebody else.”
McMahon enjoyed an outstanding first season with London in 2018, finishing with a personal tally of 2-13 from six matches.
His loss is compounded by news that the Exiles will be without Tir Chonaill Gaels corner forward Ryan Elliott for the entire season.
Elliott damaged ACL and MCL knee ligaments in London’s challenge match with Dublin earlier this month, and is facing a nine month rehabilitation period.
The game was part of London’s January training camp at the GAA’s National Games Development Centre in Abbotstown.
Handed his chance by Deely for the Exiles’ NFL Division 4 opener with Carlow, Elliott seized his opportunity and was ever-present in the London starting line-up thereafter. He ended the league and championship campaigns with 1-9.
“It’s a huge blow [for London] and a massive blow for him as he came back in and was really pushing on and looking to get better and better,” said Deely.
“He looked like a top inter-county forward, and something we miss is someone very close to goal.
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“Killian likes dropping it a little bit deeper and getting on possession whereas I always tell Ryan he’s an assassin – getting in there and getting on the ball and score. He doesn’t have to be in the game much, but when he’s on the ball we often get a score.”
It’s also a blow to county champions TCG. Elliott made a matching-winning contribution off the bench in last year’s senior county final replay, scoring 0-3 to help the Gaels claim a 17th senior title.
London fielded seven debutants in their defeat to Limerick and Deely said he was “very proud” of the players.
“We’ve had no pre-season competition and had a lot of lads playing in an inter-county jersey for the first time, and for me to say I’m disappointed that we didn’t win the game is good sign,” he said.
“For them to compete and put it up to an Irish team coming over here, we have to be happy. But disappointed not to have got something from the game – we could have.
“If the game had gone on another two or three minutes I felt we definitely would have had an opportunity to get another score.”
Deely said London need to be more clinical in front of goal, and that they “coughed up possession” far too regularly in the final third in the second half, which he says ultimately “cost them the game”.
“The challenge for this team is that we’re getting into positions to win games, but to turn a one-point defeat into a victory,” he added.
“There were a number of times when we were carrying the ball and I thought we brought it through the centre too many times, rather than keeping it out wide. But it’s not a surprise, people are rusty.”
London had a strong wind at their backs in the first half, and Deely defended the decision to play two in the forward line – Fearghal McMahon operating off Killian Butler.
“Limerick are very defensive; they want you to cough up possession cheaply and then they’ll hit you on the counter attack,” he said.
“Last year, Louth sat off us. We had a lot of possession, but coughed up a lot, and they hit us on the counter. It looked naïve of us. We’ve improved on keeping the ball out of the tackle.
“Can we add a bit more speed on the ball and a bit more penetration? Yes, definitely.”
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