National Hurling League Division 1B
By Kieran Murphy
CARLOW’S national hurling league Division 1B campaign ended in crushing disappointment this afternoon when they shipped four goals and only managed to score one in appalling conditions at Netwatch Cullen Park.
At the end of the game with heavy snow accumulating on the pitch players, subs and the respective back-up teams ran for the sanctuary of the dressing rooms. That said it all. It was an endurance test and one Offaly handled better than the home side.
The looks on the Carlow players’ faces spoke volumes as they exited the dressing rooms later on. They now face a relegation play-off against the same opposition next Sunday in Tullamore and they will not be favourites to turn the tables.
Even as Conor Langton slipped over the opening point for Offaly inside the first minute, there was speculation whether the game would finish. The rain was pelting down. Marty Kavanagh equalised with a free. The first Offaly goal was of the soft variety as Joe Bergin went high and turned around on the Carlow 20m line. Taking his chance, his low shot found a way past a surprised Brian Tracey in the home goal. That three-pointer hung like an albatross over Carlow heads for the remainder of the half.
At the other end it was a day when the Offaly corner backs Paddy Rigney and Ben Conneely excelled. James Doyle and Chris Nolan tried hard and you could argue that on any other day they would have converted possession into scores.
Carlow never went ahead in the first half. They did draw level on 14 minutes – 1-2 to 0-5 – but Colm Gath’s point restored the Offaly lead. While Denis Murphy replied with a lovely point from play Shane Dooley swooped for a lead point which Offaly would maintain for the remainder of the game. At half-time Offaly led 1-5 to 0-6.
Early in the second half Eddie Byrne just failed to get a hold of a head-high pass from Marty Kavanagh which would surely have put him through on goal. Jack Kavanagh, who was one of Carlow’s best players, flighted over a lovely point after taking a pass from his brother, Marty.
It was ominous for Carlow when they conceded a 65. In the conditions the sliotar could have gone anywhere and so it transpired. Playing into the scoreboard end of the ground, Offaly’s Shane Dooley got a touch and found the net on Joe Bergin’s low delivery. For all intents and purposes that was the killer blow.
Carlow were given a lifeline when Ted Joyce was adjudged to have been fouled going in on goal but it was that kind of day where the Gods looked unfavourably on almost everything Carlow tried to do.
In the awful conditions Marty Kavanagh’s penalty flew over the crossbar.
Appreciating their let-off, Offaly totally closed the door on any chance of a Carlow fight-back when Shane Dooley picked out Bergin and one of Offaly’s better players in recent years shot home.
It got worse and worse for the home side. Another long-delivery caught Brian Tracey in two minds and in came Dooley to force the ball home for his side’s fourth goal.
Chris Nolan, who had taken over the free-taking duties from Kavanagh who left the action on 55 minutes, landed a free. Carlow persisted. A bit like the fourth Offaly goal, Seamus Murphy bore down on loose ball which held up in worsening conditions and slipped the ball across the line.
It was Carlow’s first goal of the league campaign. David English added a long-range free but with the snow pelting down Offaly had the last word when James Gorman pointed.
Brian Tracey came forward in the dying seconds to take a penalty but in trying to place his shot the ball flew wide of the left-hand upright.
That completed a miserable and disappointing day for the home side.
It is a question of regrouping. They will have to dig deep now. If Colm Bonnar can turn this one around it would match anything this group have achieved over the last two years.
Carlow: Brian Tracey; Alan Corcoran, Paul Doyle, Michael Doyle; Eoin Nolan, David English (0-1 free), Kevin McDonald; Jack Kavanagh (0-1), Sean Whelan; Seamus Murphy (1-0), Marty Kavanagh (0-6, 0-5 frees, pen), Eddie Byrne; James Doyle, Denis Murphy (0-1), Chris Nolan (0-1 free). Subs: Richard Coady for Nolan (10 mins), Ted Joyce for D Murphy (48 mins), Ross Smithers for M Kavanagh (55 mins), John Michael Nolan for J Doyle (56 mins), Jon Nolan for C Nolan (62 mins).
Offaly: Eoghan Cahill; Paddy Rigney, Niall Houlihane, Ben Conneely; Damien Egan, Pat Camon, Aidan Treacy; Colm Gath (0-1), Shane Kinsella; Joe Bergin (2-3, 0-3 frees) Sean Dolan, Kevin Dunne; Kevin Connolly, Colin Egan, Conor Langton (0-2). Subs: Shane Dooley (2-1) for Connolly (13 mins), Craig Taylor for Egan (56 mins), James Gorman (0-1) for Gath (65 mins), Der
Referee: John Ryan (Tipperary)