By Kieran Murphy
CARLOW made what was potentially a tough game look easy in this Leinster minor hurling championship first round game at the IT Carlow grounds on Saturday.
Playing with the wind into the town end of the ground the home side posted early scores from Fiachra Fitzpatrick and Niall Bolger while Louis Brennan marauding down the right-hand side of the field took possession, made ground and hammered the sliotar to the net.
The Royals brought a large band of vociferous supporters with them and soon they had something to shout about.
James Murray landed Meath’s first point on eight minutes and while Conor Kehoe picked off a point for Carlow it was Ciaran Lonergan who may have got a decisive touch when nudging a high delivery just over the Carlow line. The roar in the stand was loud and could have spurred on the away side.
This was asking a serious question of Carlow and they replied in excellent fashion outscoring their opponents by 1-4 to 0-2 in the second quarter. Scott Treacy scored the goal when taking an accurate pass from Brennan. Even though they were playing against the wind in the second half a 2-8 to 1-3 interval lead was healthy as far as the home team was concerned.
Doubts about a home victory against the strong wind turned to confidence within 38 seconds of the restart when Fiach O’Toole swooped for another Carlow goal. Two minutes later Patrick Kavanagh scored his second point of the game.
Ultimately Carlow filleted the Meath challenge. They remained focussed, disciplined and look to be a talented group of hurlers.
Conor Kehoe ended up with 0-11 with five of the starting forwards scoring from play. Meath completely capitulated in the final quarter with both their starting midfielders struggling before being eventually withdrawn.
If there is anything to worry about then Christy Kealy and the management team would feel that a sterner challenge might have helped the players learn a little bit more about themselves.
Ultimately it was a job well done.
Next up is a date with Down in Abbotstown on 4 May at 3pm. This game will determine the group standings and from there the top team in this tier 3 section will play the fourth-placed team in a tier 2 group which consists of Laois Westmeath, Antrim and Kildare.
Carlow: Jake Somers (Burren Rangers); Sean Joyce (Mount Leinster Rangers), Michael Joyce (MLR), Lorcan Doyle (Burren Rangers); Tadgh Doran (MLR), Ger Kavanagh (Naomh Eoin), Niall Bolger (0-1); Patrick Kavanagh (0-2, Ballinkillen), Fiachra Fitzpatrick (0-1, MLR); Conor Kehoe (0-11, 0-5 frees, St Mullins), Scott Treacy (1-0, Naomh Eoin), Louis Brennan (1-1, Ballinkillen); Fiach O’Toole (1-0, Naomh Bríd), Eoin Whelan (0-1, Ballinkillen), Jake Doyle (Bagenalstown Gaels). Subs: Ben Bolger (MLR) for Whelan (49 mins), Jason Wall (0-1, Bagenalstown Gaels) for Doran (50 mins), Joe Dundon (MLR) for J Doyle (55 mins), Michael Nolan (Naomh Eoin) for Fitzpatrick (59 mins).
Meath: Calum Buckley; Niall O Laoire, Shane Clarke, Cathal Smith; Dylan Farrell, Gary Fleming, Aaron Traynor; James Murray (0-1), Stefan Holzner; Martin Keogh (1-0), Ciaran Lonergan, Luke Horan; Lee Walsh, Conor McGovern (0-2, 0-1 free), Lee Coldrick. Subs: Gavin McCann for Traynor (22 mins), Cathal McKeown for Lonergan (38 mins), Alex O’Kane for Murray (38 mins), Robert Ennis for O Laoire (49 mins), Ryan Byas for Holzner (54 mins).
Referee: Conor Daly (Kildare).