By John Foley
CARLOW were knocked out of the Leinster U20 football championship in heartbreaking fashion at Enniscorthy on Friday evening when a Wexford goal in the second minute of injury time at the end of the game nudged them ahead to deny what would have been a brilliant comeback victory for Victor Doyle’s team.
Carlow had trailed throughout the game which was played in difficult conditions until a cracking Cathal O’Neill goal put them 2-8 to 2-6 ahead with scarcely three minutes of normal time remaining.
That goal came after a period of sustained pressure by the Carlow men who seemed to have timed their run for the finishing post to perfection.
But Wexford had time for one final sting in the tail. Perhaps a more cynical team than Carlow might have killed a Wexford attack at source as the final moments of the game played out.
As it was, Wexford were allowed to move the ball through the hands up the field without a tackle or a foul being committed all the way to the unmarked substitute Mossy Murphy who found the net from close range and denied Carlow’s dreams of victory.
It was an incredibly tough way to lose a game that was a dogfight throughout, with driving rain and wind making good football almost impossible, particularly in the first half.
It was a half which started badly for Carlow. First goalkeeper Kuba Budzisz was called into action to make a fine save, the first of many throughout the game. Wexford were first off the mark through a Column Feeney 45 and before the third minute had elapsed, Wexford had the ball in the net thanks to centre-forward Paudie Hughes after an attack from the right wing.
Carlow settled and Ronan Curran scored the first of his tally with a beauty off his left foot after five minutes to make it 1-1 to 0-1 for the hosts.
Carlow were getting on a lot of ball but a succession of wides meant they couldn’t cut into the deficit until the 17th minute when good pressure by Finbarr Kavanagh and Diarmuid Ruth dispossessed the Wexford defence and won a free which Andrew Keogh slotted for Carlow’s second point.
The teams shared four more points between then and the break with the lively Shane Pettit scoring the pick of the Wexford scores while Cormac Lomax brilliantly held on to possession and made space for himself to shoot over a fine Carlow score on 26 minutes. At the break it was 1-3 to 0-4 for Wexford.
The rate of scoring increased after the interval as the elements eased somewhat.
Carlow were battling well all over the pitch but they were hit with another hammer blow seven minutes in when the ball seemed to bounce and ricochet into the net off a Carlow body to make it 2-4 to 0-5 for Wexford and Carlow had a mountain to climb.
But credit to Carlow, they never shirked from the battle.
Andrew Keogh scored another point on 45 minutes and Carlow’s hopes of a revival were given a huge shot in the arm when Jamie Lunney got a hand to a dropping ball in the square to direct it into the net and make it a two-point game.
There was more to come for Carlow. Ronan Curran lofted a brilliant point before substitute Cian Doyle did likewise and by the 26th minute Carlow trailed by the minimum: 2-6 to 1-8.
Then a sweeping move through the heart of the Wexford defence delivered the ball to the onrushing Cathal O’Neill and the Palatine man rattled the net with a great strike to put Carlow ahead.
It seemed like the momentum had swung decisively but Wexford thought otherwise.
With time running out they came in waves at the Carlow defence who had been resolute. But when Mossy Murphy found the ball in his hands in the 63rd minute he made no mistake.
There were many fine performances in Carlow colours on the night. It’s a terrible pity they do not have a win to show for their considerable efforts. But sport can be so cruel.
Wexford: Anthony Larkin; Ryan Furlong, Ciaran Kavanagh, Liam O’Connor; Niall Murphy, Sam Audsley, Ciaran Reegan; Liam Coleman, Tiernan Neville; Shane Pettit (1-2), Paudie Hughes (1-0), Column Feeney (0-5, 0-5 frees, 0-1 45); Todd Hynes (0-1), Diarmuid Barry, Sean Forde. Subs: Mossy Murphy (1-0) for D Barry (51 mins), Colm Parnell for S Pettit (63 mins)
Carlow: Kuba Budisz (Bagenalstown Gaels); Jonah Dunne (Tinryland), Keagan Bradley (Fenagh), Luke Bradley (Fenagh); Jamie Lunney (1-0, Ballinabranna), Jack McCullagh (Bagenalstown Gaels), Finbarr Kavanagh (Palatine); Luke Connolly (Clonmore), Niall Hickey (Kildavin-Clonegal); Cormac Lomax (0-1, Fenagh), Dinny Farrell (Tinryland), Diarmuid Ruth (Éire Óg); Andrew Kehoe (0-4, Palatine). Cathal O’Neill (1-0, Palatine), Ronan Curran (0-3, Tinryland). Subs: Darragh Nolan (Tinryland) for N Hickey (28 mins), Cian Doyle (0-1, Bagenalstown Gaels) for D Ruth (38 mins), Tadhg Roche (Old Leighlin) for L Bradley (42 mins), Colin Byrne for D Farrell (48 mins), Griffin Kennedy for C Lomax (59 mins).