Thursday, January 03, 2019

WITH the national leagues just around the corner, Carlow supporters will be looking for pointers from both the senior hurlers and footballers next weekend when Offaly provide the opposition in third round O’Byrne Cup and Walsh Cup match-ups.

Winning breeds confidence and with home advantage Carlow have a good opportunity to register wins and inform their visitors they are a team that means business.

Carlow football manager Turlough O’Brien pointed out that his team are out of the running for O’Byrne Cup honours.

“We are out of contention so it is the new rules and looking at players which it will be useful for. After last weekend and this game it will be full-steam ahead going into January,” said Turlough.

It was worrying to see Paul Broderick leave the field so early in the Westmeath game in mid-December while Ciaran Moran has only played a small part in the early O’Byrne Cup games. These two exert an influence when they are going well but O’Brien is happy he is playing with a full-strength squad going into the New Year.

“We had a fair few injuries, nothing major but I presume they will be all OK come the weekend.”

The hurlers are coming off the back of a satisfying win against Laois in Portlaoise. It was blow for blow for 55 minutes of that second round Walsh Cup game but the combination of Carlow hitting a purple patch and Laois tiring saw the visitors emerge with an excellent win.

One imagines Carlow will have to show that last quarter form a lot earlier against Offaly even if the Faithful County went down to Laois by 2-16 to 1-16 in the first round.

Colm Bonnar says the players are responding well to what is required of them.

“They are working extremely hard. They are doing their gym work, training and conditioning. They know what is ahead of them. This is an important game for us in terms of preparation for the start of the national league,” he said.

“We need to be hitting the ground running in January. It is difficult at this time of year looking for our best form but we will do everything in our power to stay up there.”

He says Offaly will be super-motivated on Sunday.

“We are the team which has taken their place in the championship and probably they will be going gung-ho to put us in our box.”

Carlow supporters themselves will be hitting the ground running with two games on successive days.

The hurlers open their league challenge with an away trip in Dublin on Saturday 26 January while the footballers open their national football league Division 3 campaign at home to Sligo the next day in Carlow.

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By kieran murphy
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