EMRALD GAA grounds in Ruislip played host to Down for this Christy ring semi-final replay, the first part of London’s big championship weekend, as they play host to Leitrim on Sunday in the football championship.
London with first use of the strong breeze dominated the opening five minutes of the game.
The first half came to an end with some more sustained pressure from London with Tony Horgan and James Eagan scoring from play and moments later Fintan Conway made a brave interception to thwart another attack from London.
Paul Sheehan reduced the gap again but points from Maher and Rowe for London sent them in leading 1.07 to 0.05.
At the start of the second half Arron O’Prey became the fifth player from Down to be penalised for over carrying and Maher sent over the first point of the half for London.
Martin Finn again scored a free for London and this was becoming an uphill task for the Down men.
Caolan Baille was introduced for Down and Kevin Walsh for London soon after Woods got a score from a free for Down, and they brought on Adrain Clarke on 15mins into the half
Brian Costello was showing some fine form for London from the full back position and with midfield winning the ball for London Down needed to do something quickly to stem the tide
Kevin Walsh the sub then got on the score sheet and the resulting puck out was picked up by Miceal Cunningham who delivered to Adrain Clarke the Down sub and he cooly finished to the net.
Woods followed with another free from 65m then Paul keith was again harshly blown up for overcarrying again with the resulting free being scored by Finn, Clarke and woods then pointed for Down and they were back in the game with 23 gone in the second half.
Walsh replied for London but at this stage Down were in the acescendency but they just couldn’t convert the scores
On thirty two minutes Adrain Clarke pulled on a ball and it was waved wide by the umpire but referee Carroll seemed to indicate that it was a point
but after consultation the score was ruled out and Down were still three points down.
Referee Carroll then awarded a penalty to down after Clarke was pulled down in the small square and memories of Pairc Esler last weekend came flooding back up stepped Woods the hero from last week and he cooly dispatched it to the roof of the net draw at full time against all the odds .
with a minute still on the clock and what we thought should have been four or five minutes of injury time the referee Carroll blew up the game from the London Puck out after the goal.
In the first period of extra time Clarke for Down and Walsh and Dunne for London added scores
Woods was again on target for Down with a free and London then struck the vital goal which was to be their winning score a long ball in from midfield fell short of the small square and Kevin Walsh pulled on the bouncing ball to score the vital goal the half ended with the score at 2.14 to 2.12.
The two teams started to tire in the beaming sun in london and the teams were to score two more points each in the second period of extra time with London ending up winning 2.16 to 2.14
Overall this was a match in which Down sorely missed the firepower and playmaking ability of Paul Braniff who had been dismissed in the drawn game in Newry and he was serving his one match ban imposed on him.
Gerard Monan Down manager said he was very proud of the character and resilience his team had shown and with the average age of his squad being 23 he said their was more to come from these boys and added that this young squad has come on leaps and bounds over the past couple of months.
The gaels of london were very happy at the final whistle to see their team reach their second final in Croke park in two years.