By Kieran Murphy
FOREWARNED is forearmed. After Mayo had run Kildare to a point in their Christy Ring Cup first round tie, Carlow were taking nothing for granted against the Connacht side in this back-door tie on Saturday in Netwatch Cullen Park.
There was also the not-insignificant matter of righting the hurts of their own first round defeat to Antrim in a game they truly left behind them.
The unfortunate Mayomen were facing the perfect storm and judging by their decision to play against the wind in the first half they never saw the dark clouds gathering.
Nine minutes in their day was all but done as the Carlow whirlwind saw the Barrowsiders race into a 2-4 to 0-0 lead. Marty Kavanagh opened the scoring when Jack Murphy took possession 40 metres out and fed his captain who fired just over the crossbar.
His St Mullins clubmate, James Doyle, followed on by beating his marker and scoring a fine point. John Michael Nolan and Kavanagh were involved in the first Carlow goal as Kevin McDonald scooped the sliotar over the keeper and into the net. Kavanagh’s successfully converted free wide on the right kept the pressure on their opponents before Diarmuid Byrne spotted Doyle who scored another goal.
A youthful Mayo side were not afraid to move the ball around the field but they lacked the physicality of Carlow who were hell-bent on saving their season. They finally got off the mark on 16 minutes when full-forward Kenny Feeney landed a free. Later on the same player scored a second Mayo point from play. There was no respite. Carlow could afford to shoot a number of wides as Alan Corcoran, David English and Richard Kelly dealt with everything Mayo hit them with in the opening half.
Eddie Byrne landed his second point shortly after an umpire signalled to the referee that the Mayo keeper, Davog Freyne, had committed a technical offence on his puck-out and the ball was thrown in. That happened a second time while John Michael Nolan also benefitted when a short puck-out went wrong for Mayo.
Just before the break McDonald scored his second goal and David English converted a long-range free to give Carlow a 3-13 to 0-2 interval lead.
The game was over so it was a question of getting through the second half without mishap for Carlow. However, this was not to happen.
Feeney nailed two points in succession for Mayo before Jack Kavanagh fired over Carlow’s opening point of the second half. The Connacht side struggled but they did play some enterprising hurling at times. This was exemplified when Diarmuid McLoughlin fired over a lovely point from play.
Marty Kavanagh then scored a fine individual goal and substitute Chris Nolan pointed. It was a long second-half in difficult conditions for all concerned. Supporters had little to enthuse about but that wasn’t Carlow’s fault. They did a professional job on Mayo who failed to reproduce anything like their best form. Jack Murphy had the satisfaction of landing two points in succession and ended up with a total of four over the 70-odd minutes.
In what must be a rare occurrence, the final three scores of the game were all goals. First, James Doyle found himself in space and pulled first time to net his second.
As Carlow’s concentration wavered Joseph McManus beat the cover to score his goal and Feeney followed up when substitute Padraig Hickey did the donkey work and once more the Carlow line was breached.
Before the end, handbags became a little bit more serious and when players separated Craig Wall picked up a straight red card. It was the only blemish on a day where Carlow got their season back on track.
Carlow: James Carroll; Alan Corcoran, Paul Doyle, Gary Bennett; Richard Coady, David English (0-1, free), Richard Kelly; Diarmuid Byrne (0-1), Jack Kavanagh (0-2); John Michael Nolan (0-1), Marty Kavanagh (1-4, 0-3 frees), Eddie Byrne (0-2); Kevin McDonald (2-0), Jack Murphy (0-4), James Doyle (2-2). Subs: Dion Wall for Bennett (47 mins), Chris Nolan (0-1) for M Kavanagh (51 mins), Craig Wall for E. Byrne (51 mins), Ross Smithers for JM Nolan (57 mins.
Mayo: Davog Freyne; Michael Morley, Gerard McManus, Sean Mulroy; Cathal Freeman, Brian Hunt, Shane Morley; Eoin McLoughlin, John Cotter; Joseph McManus (1-0), Sean Regan, Keith Higgins; Shane Boland, Kenny Feeney (1-6, 0-4 frees, 65), Diarmuid McLoughlin (0-1). Subs: Gary Nolan for Mulroy (28 mins), Darren McTigue for Cotter (28 mins), Padraig Hickey for Boland (49 mins), Martin Parsons for Freyne (54 mins), Tony Sweeney for Morley (66 mins).
Referee: John O’Brien (Tipperary).