By Kieran Murphy
IT was hard to know what to make of this Walsh Cup first round game at Netwatch Cullen Park last Tuesday night. Only seven of the Dublin starting 15 who were edged out by a late Liam Blanchfield goal in the 2018 Leinster senior hurling championships by Kilkenny began this game.
In desperately wet conditions, Carlow had a number of changes themselves from their Joe McDonagh Cup final 15. Mind you, adding the absent James Doyle, John Michael Nolan and Eddie Byrne would have given the home side an attacking edge which they could have done with here.
Carlow rolled with the punches and they kept their concentration well. Particularly after they conceded a 15th-minute goal scored by Eamonn Dillon when he needed two attempts before finding the net.
Up to then, Carlow had actually taken a first-minute lead thanks to a Marty Kavanagh free.
The Metropolitans hit back with a Donal Burke free while the same player passed to John Hetherton who found the Carlow posts. A Chris Nolan point reminded Dublin that Carlow were not going to roll over.
With Kavanagh popping over frees from all angles into the scoreboard end of the ground the outsiders kept in touch. When danger threatened Michael Doyle got in a great goal-saving tackle on Dillon who looked certain to score on 30 minutes. Even though Richard Coady picked off a point from half-way, Dublin led at half-time by 1-8 to 0-9.
A Sean Treacy point added to their total inside the opening minute of the second half. When Ted Joyce was given space on the Dublin 20-metre line he ran straight and tucked the ball to the net.
In reply Donal Burke scored a lovely point for Dublin on the left underneath the stand but Kavanagh did likewise at the other end.
His subsequent free nudged the home side in front and now Dublin had some questions to answer.
Upping the intensity and with sub, Caolan Conway, tacking on two points, Dublin outscored their rivals by 1-6 to 0-1 in a 10-minute spell. Jon Nolan got that Carlow point shortly after his introduction to the contest.
The Dublin goal was coming but in the end it was a simple stroke from inside the small square when the ball fell kindly for Fintan McGibb as both sides tried to get in a telling intervention.
Dublin, sensing they had done enough and with subs coming and going the game, lost some of its edge. It was in Carlow’s interests to keep going against strong opposition and they did.
Kavanagh and Hetherton shared four points between them in the final nine minutes as the rain finally eased.
A new season has begun. The summer of 2018 is just a memory now: for both counties.
Carlow: Brian Tracey; Alan Corcoran, Paul Doyle, Michael Doyle; Eoin Nolan, David English, Richard Coady (0-1); Jack Kavanagh, Sean Whelan; Diarmuid Byrne, Ross Smithers, Jack Murphy (0-1); Marty Kavanagh (0-12, 0-10 frees), Ted Joyce (1-0), Chris Nolan (0-1). Subs: Kevin McDonald for Whelan (h/t), Jon Nolan (0-1) for Nolan (44 mins), Gary Bennett for Coady (52 mins).
Dublin: Alan Nolan; Shane Barrett, Bill O’Carroll, Lee Gannon; Tom Connolly, Sean Moran (0-1 free), Chris Crummey; Jake Malone, Sean Treacy (0-1); Fergal Whitely, Conor Burke, Fintan McGibb (1-2); John Hetherton (0-10, 0-6 frees, 65), Donal Burke (0-4, 0-1 free), Eamonn Dillon (1-1). Subs: Caolan Conway (0-2) for C Burke (32 mins), Ronan Hayes for Malone (43 mins), Conor Ryan for Treacy (51 mins), Ronan Smith for D Burke, Diarmuid Flynn for McGibb, Glenn Whelan for Hetherton (all 65 mins).
Referee: Justin Heffernan (Wexford