By Cóilín Duffy
Down maintained their unbeaten start to the Christy Ring Cup as they shaded a victory over London by 2-22 to 1-23 at McGovern Park, Ruislip on Sunday.
Daithi Sands netted the visitors second goal in the closing stages of normal time, as Down withstood a strong London display late on to ensure a two-point win.
Paul Sheehan got the all clear to play after an mri scan during the week following a bicep tear in last weekend’s win over Armagh.
The Newry Shamrocks clubman had a major say in this game, but it was the hosts who began brightly.
Kevin O’Loughlin fired two points from play in the opening two minutes, before two from Shane Lawless saw London move 0-4 to 0-1 ahead.
Down worked hard to cut the gap with Caolan Baille opening their tally, and the Mourne County added two more scores to ensure the minimum between the sides after 13 minutes.
London continued to shade this contest with scores from Richie Murphy and Colin Nelson, but Sheehan kept Down in touch from placed balls.
A Murphy pointed free ensured London held a 0-8 to 0-5 lead with 10 minutes to go before the break.
However, a Danny Toner goal edged Down 1-6 to 0-8 in front.
London drew level, before the hosts moved 1-12 to 1-10 ahead at the break, with Cork native Aaron Sheehan firing a goal late in the half.
Little separated the sides on the restart, with the scores tied at 1-13 a piece in the 39th minute, with Nelson adding a London point.
Five unanswered scores pushed Down 1-15 to 1-13 ahead, before London cut the gap through Cillian Burke 10 minutes into the half.
Both teams were really keen, and after a Nelson equaliser the full-forward added another to edge the hosts back in front.
Paul Sheehan added another for Down, before Declan McManus and Shane Lawless swapped scores.
1-18 apiece with 10 minutes left on the clock this was anyone’s game, but London moved three points clear with Aaron Sheehan superb.
Down weren’t finished by any means and a goal from Sands pushed them two points clear on a 2-20 to 1-21 score-line in the 65th minute.
Both sides battled hard in the closing stages, with Down leading 2-22 to 1-23 ahead of five minutes of additional time.
London kept up the pressure with some good chances, but Kevin O’Loughlin’s late strike was blocked out as Down survived to take a two-point win.
Scorers for Down: Danny Toner 1-6; Paul Sheehan (5f, 1 65′) 0-7; Daithi Sands 1-2; Pearse Óg McCrickard 0-4; Caolan Baille 0-2; Declan McManus 0-1.
Scorers for London: Aaron Sheehan (2f, 1 65′) 1-7; Colin Nelson 0-6; Shane Lawless 0-4; Kevin O’Loughlin 0-3; Cillian Burke 0-2; Richard Murphy (1f) 0-1.