By Charlie Keegan
CARLOW hurlers are learning how tough life is in the top echelons of the game as Colm Bonner’s men were swamped by a rampant Kilkenny side in this NHL Division 1 Group B miss-match at Netwatch Cullen Park on Sunday.
The home county was in distress almost from the throw-in as the confident Cats knocked over five early unanswered points.
And things went from bad top to worse for the home side on 14 minutes when wing back Michael Malone fell victim to a straight red card issued by Cork referee Cathal McAllister.
The sending off was for a rash tackle by the Mount Leinster Rangers clubman on Kilkenny full back Huw Lawlor. The sanction looked harsh.
Carlow struggled to deal with the pace of the visitors, who were composed and confident in their hurling.
Marty Kavanagh opened Carlow’s account with a pointed free on 15 minutes. The Kilkenny response was to surge upfield for Ger Alyward to find James Maher, who finished smartly to the Carlow net.
A brilliant save from Carlow netminder Damian Jordan followed immediately as the Naomh Eoin clubman denied Walter Walsh a certain goal – the towering Walsh had the consolation of a point in the follow-up.
The trend of the game was well established by now, with Carlow giving of their best but finding themselves chasing stripy shadows a lot of the time.
By half time the outcome had been well settled as Cody’s men led 1-12 to 0-5, all of the Carlow scores coming from joint captain Marty Kavanagh, four from frees.
Carlow players were penalised for dissent on a number of occasions during the opening half as one sensed that there was a simmering feeling of injustice at the sending off. The way the half went, the home players must have felt the entire world was against them.
That aside, there was no denying the yawning gulf that existed between the teams. Carlow are on a learning curve and, while victory over the likes of Kilkenny is unrealistic, they have to stick with it in the hope that they can survive among hurling’s big fish.
The second half saw no change in the course of the game. Kilkenny continued to pick off their scores while Carlow struggled to make any impact.
The Carlow attack found it very difficult to make headway against a vigilant Kilkenny attack in which corner back Ciarán Wallace, the Erin’s Own Castlecomer clubman, was used to great effect as the spare man.
The score mounted against Bonnar’s men, goals from Ger Aylward and the returning Richie Hogan making the gap even bigger.
Goalie Jordan made another outstanding save to deny Walter Walsh a certain goal for the second time in the game with the tie in its dying embers.
In the end there was a massive 21 points separating the sides. When Kilkenny came calling last May in the Leinster championship, the score was 3-22 to 1-14 in favour of Cody’s charges.
Both managers emptied their bench and two of the Carlow subs made the scoresheet – Ted Joyce and Edward Byrne, the Mount Leinster Rangers duo, both pointing out of play.
Carlow’s best outfield players were David English, Alan Corcoran, John Michael Nolan, Marty Kavanagh and Chris Nolan. But the stark truth is that Carlow were out of their depth against Sunday’s opposition.
In mitigation the home side was without a number of regulars, including top forward James Doyle.
But it is a sobering thought that Kilkenny fielded without the Ballyhale Shamrocks brigade and minus established hurlers like Paul Murphy, Padraig Walsh and Cillian Buckley.
For those of a statistical mindset, this was the sixth ever meeting between these neighbouring counties and it was Kilkenny’s sixth victory.
Over the course of the game Carlow shot seven wides (3, 4) while Kilkenny were wayward in the second half, their total being 13 (5, 8).
Kilkenny full forward Richie Hogan was named man of the match, the Danesfort clubman showing he retains all his craft and skill.
Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy (0-1 free), Ciarán Wallace, Huw Lawlor, Conor Delaney; Michael Cody, Paddy Deegan, Michael Carey; M Keoghan, A Murphy (0-8, frees); B Ryan, W Walsh (0-2), J Maher (1-2); B Sheehan (0-1), R Hogan (1-3), G Aylward (1-1). Subs: N Brassil (0-2) for Keoghan (h/t); C Fogarty for Carey (h/t); A Nolan (0-1) for Aylward (46 mins); T Kenny for Cody (51 mins); T O’Dwyer for Ryan (61 mins).
Carlow: Damian Jordan; Ross Smithers, Paul Doyle, Michael Doyle; Michael Malone, David English, Alan Corcoran; Seán Whelan, Richard Coady; John Michael Nolan, Marty Kavanagh (0-6, 0-5 frees), Kevin McDonald; Jon Nolan, Paul Coady, Chris Nolan (0-1). Subs: Diarmuid Byrne for Corcoran (40 mins); Aaron Amond for Whelan (49 mins); Ted Joyce (0-1) for P Coady (52mins); Edward Byrne (0-1) for JM Nolan (56 mins); Cathal Treacy for C Nolan (65 mins).
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork).