By Kieran Murphy
THE Carlow senior footballers produced their best performance of the season when they outfought a strong Louth team and came away with a priceless 1-10 to 0-12 NFL Division 3 game at Netwatch Cullen Park on Saturday evening.
Carlow manager Turlough O’Brien had maintained this division was always going to come down to the wire and his words have been proven right. Down sit on top of the table with eight points with Westmeath in second place on seven.
Only one point divides four other teams, including Carlow, with Offaly tethering on the brink with three. Sligo haven’t registered even a draw yet and are going to make the drop with two games remaining.
This was the acid test for the footballers. Losing wasn’t an option with two tough games left against Down and Laois. The home side got off to a great start with a Sean Gannon goal inside the opening quarter.
They created further goal chances over the 70 minutes but this was as valuable a three-pointer as the Éire Óg man has ever scored for club or county.
Mentally it was Louth who folded. Carlow may have had Brendan Murphy and Darragh Foley black-carded either side of half-time, but the visitors lost Declan Byrne to two yellows and Ciaran Downey with a straight red in the second half.
“This team has shown over the last few years what they can do,” said O’Brien. “Louth were top of the table coming into this game and we were looking at heading down to the other end of the table,” said O’Brien.
“We have five points and we are back in the mix now. The lads are very focussed and have put too much into this to go down without a fight.”
There is a break now for the footballers before they face Down on Saturday 16 March at 3pm in Carlow.
There was desperate disappointment for the Carlow senior hurlers on Sunday as they were beaten 4-8 to 1-10 by Offaly in dreadful conditions at Netwatch Cullen Park. They now face the same opposition in the NHL Division 1B relegation play-off next weekend in Tullamore.
Nothing went right for them and the signs were ominous early on when Joe Bergin found the Carlow net for a soft goal. In the second half as Carlow fought back they conceded another goal and Marty Kavanagh was unlucky to see his penalty clear the crossbar. Manager Colm Bonnar must now try to lift his side.
“Our goal from the start was to stay in the division. We have another game, the same opposition but we have to go into their backyard and take them on,” he said.
“We have to learn from today and find positives. It is disappointing. It was an awful day. Players came off the pitch and couldn’t feel their hands.”