By Charlie Keegan
CARLOW footballers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as they conceded 1-1 in injury time to visitors Limerick in a dramatic finish to this crucial NFL Division 4 tie at a wind and rain-lashed Netwatch Cullen Park on Sunday.
The consequences of this loss for Turlough O’Brien’s side means that Carlow’s prospects of being promoted are bleak, with four games remaining in the division.
This game went ahead following an early-morning pitch inspection after Storm Ciara had threatened its postponement. The conditions remained very difficult for the players throughout the game.
There were twists and turns with Carlow – or to be exact, Tinryland’s Paul Broderick – doing all the early scoring. Broderick hit four excellent points, all his kicks judged to perfection, particularly a 14th minute 45 into the teeth of the gale and another superb effort for his fourth white flag on 23 minutes.
Carlow, getting so many players back behind the ball, frustrated Limerick, who enjoyed plenty of possession but took until the 30th minute to record their first score. But the Treaty County then hit three more points from play without reply as the sides went in level at the break at 0-4 apiece.
The big talking point of the first half was the sending off of Carlow midfielder Sean Murphy. The Fenagh clubman had received a yellow card on 15 minutes and a poor challenge on an opponent just before half time led to his dismissal.
Limerick, with the extra man, took a two-point lead with a pointed free from Jamie Lee on 41 minutes and another from play by Danny Neville on 51 minutes. Carlow were making no use of the elements with few options in attack, as they went on a long, barren spell without a score –going a massive 34 minutes without raising a flag. The home side created few scoring chances and turned over too much ball through over-elaboration and fumbling possession. At least two good goal chances were spurned due to mess-ups of the final pass.
The home crowd was frustrated as the half progressed without a Carlow score and the Limerick lead of two points remained intact. But then, on 55 minutes, Brendan Murphy provided the spark Carlow needed with an outstanding point from long range near the sideline – his side’s first score from play. For an encore, Seán Gannon arrowed over a superb point from distance.
Carlow were now on a roll and retook the lead with a booming point from substitute Darragh Foley, with the Kilbride man’s first action. The momentum now with O’Brien’s men, Gannon doubled the home lead with another fine point out of open play and a Paul Broderick pointed free stretched the Carlow lead to three points.
It seemed the league points were now in safe keeping. But it all went wrong in injury time. As Carlow sought to defend their lead Limerick went on the attack and in injury time a high ball into the Carlow square was touched over the line by left half-back Robert Childs despite the best efforts of home goalie Robert Sansom.
The game was now up for grabs again. Carlow attacked but a great effort from Brendan Murphy hit the post and went wide.
With the game in its dying moments a Limerick kick-out was fielded brilliantly by their big midfielder Tommy Childs, who played in Danny Neville, the Ballysteen clubman being hauled down in the large square. A penalty was awarded and Limerick centre back Ian Corbett had the luxury of kicking a point from the spot kick to ensure a smash-and-grab victory for the visitors.
Carlow ended with 13 men after full back Shane Redmond was black carded in injury time – Limerick were reduced to 14 men when midfielder Tommy Griffin received a second yellow card on 44 minutes.
Limerick enjoyed the greater share of the ball over the course of the game. Remarkably Carlow kicked no first half wide and only three all game while they had no shot on goal from play during that first half.
Ross Dunphy was Carlow’s most consistent performer while Shane Redmond, Jordan Morrissey, Ray Walker, Brendan Murphy, Eoghan Ruth, Paul Broderick and Seán Gannon also showed up well. But overall it was a patchy Carlow performance which makes things difficult for them for the remainder of the league.
Limerick: Donal O’Sullivan; Paul Maher, Brian Fanning, Michael Donovan; Tony McCarthy, Ian Corbett (0-1, pen), Robert Childs (1-1); Tommy Griffin, Tommy Childs; Padraig De Brún, Cillian Fahy, James Naughton; Jamie Lee (0-1, free), Adrian Enright (0-2), Danny Neville (0-1). Subs: Josh Ryan for Naughton (49 mins), Seamus O’Carroll for De Brún (49 mins), Hugh Bourke for Lee (62 mins), Davy Lyons for Enright (64 mins)
Carlow: Robert Sansom (Ballinabranna); Liam Roberts (Kildavin-Clonegal), Shane Redmond (Tinryland), Ray Walker (O’Hanrahan’s), Ross Dunphy (Eire Óg); Seán Murphy (Fenagh), Eoghan Ruth (Eire Óg); Paul Broderick (0-5, 0-4 frees, Tinryland), Daniel St Ledger (Kildavin-Clonegal), Darragh O’Brien (Eire Óg): Sean Gannon (0-2, Eire Óg), Brendan Murphy (0-1, Rathvilly), Diarmuid Walshe (Tinryland). Subs: Darragh Foley (0-1, Kilbride) for Walshe (60 mins), Conor Doyle (Rathvilly) for Moore (61 mins), Lee Walker (O’Hanrahan’s) for O’Brien (65 mins), Mark Furey (Eire Óg) (69 mins)
Referee: S Lonergan (Tipperary).