By Kieran Murphy
CARLOW produced an amazing second-half performance to oust Offaly by 2-14 to 1-16 to maintain their status in the top-12 senior hurling teams in the country.
They will now take their place in a reshaped 2020 National Hurling League Division 1 where they will play against Dublin, Clare, Wexford, Laois and either Cork or Kilkenny next season.
They looked down and out at half-time when trailing by 1-11 to 0-3. Nobody gave them a chance, particularly when they had been reduced to 14 players after Eddie Byrne had been red-carded 10 minutes into the game.
Colm Bonnar said this result is huge for Carlow hurling.
“The satisfaction at the end really shone through. Some of the lads in the dressing room have been playing for Carlow for the last eight or nine years. If they had to go back to Division 2, it would have been a real downer,’” the Carlow manager said.
“The man down caught us early on. We won the toss and elected to go against the wind. After 15 minutes they had 1-5 on the board.”
Shane Dooley had another Offaly goal chance on 18 minutes after Joe Bergin found the net on four minutes. The Offaly player should have finished off the Carlow challenge but the miss gave the visitors a glimpse of redemption. Bonnar said Carlow won the toss and elected to play against the wind.
“It didn’t look like a very good decision. We felt with the breeze we might not get into the game. Ten or 15 minutes might pass and it would give us a chance to regroup and play with an extra defender.
“We had to rearrange when we went down to 14. It worked out in the end as we were chasing a game with a hell of a breeze behind us.”
In the end Carlow outfought their home side.
“It came into the melting pot and for us to beat Offaly down here is unbelievable,” noted Bonnar.
On the football front a second-half goal from Ian Shanahan secured Knockbeg a place in the All-Ireland schools junior football A final against St Colman’s of Newry on 30 March after they beat IS Killorglin by 1-15 to 2-8 at University of Limerick on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Carlow entertain Down in their penultimate NFL Division 3 fixture at Netwatch Cullen Park on Saturday.
A win for Down will clinch promotion for them while success for Carlow would see them secure their place in the division with a chance of making the knock-out stages.