By Kieran Murphy
AFTER resounding defeats to Clare and Kilkenny in the opening two rounds, you could argue Carlow were on a hiding to nothing in this NHL Division 1B encounter at Netwatch Cullen Park on Saturday. They did lose by 11 points, but with Laois on the horizon on Saturday night, they will have learned plenty from this game.
Short at least seven players who would be considered automatic selections, the starting team took it to Dublin right from the first whistle. Ryan McBride may have opened the scoring for the visitors but by the 18th minute Carlow led 0-3 to 0-2 with Marty Kavanagh converting two frees and John Michael Nolan also finding the posts. McBride scored Dublin’s second point into the O’Hanrahan’s end of the ground.
Carlow hunted in twos and threes and their supporters vocally approved when the visitors were turned over and conceded a sideline ball on the terrace side of the ground.
Dublin did win an amount of breaking ball and this was vital as they absorbed the Carlow challenge. Carlow manager Colm Bonnar was delighted with the way his players stood up to their rivals.
“They worked extremely hard, had a very good attitude and to see our substitutes; they are young but they are mad to hurl for Carlow,” he said.
By half-time Dublin led 0-6 to 0-4. Possibly it could have been more but the Carlow defence closed down the goalbound Chris Crummey who was penalised for overcarrying while the same player rushed another effort and pulled the sliotar wide of the right-hand posts.
The expected Dublin second-half performance duly arrived. Substitute David Kehoe pointed immediately after the restart. Daire Gray added another and Crummey made amends for his earlier misses when he got on the scoreboard. The visitors were on a roll. Their passes began to stick. They were getting out in front of their markers and long deliveries were gathered high in the air by outstretched Dublin hands. Bonnar wasn’t surprised.
“We knew Dublin were a serious outfit. They are training to get as far as they can. It wouldn’t be bold to suggest they are training to get to an All-Ireland final. That is their ambition. That is the level we are at and that is the challenge,” he said.
Carlow may have found themselves going further and further behind but they didn’t capitulate. Marty Kavanagh slotted a free. Goalkeeper Damien Jordan brought off saves from John Hetherton and Ronan Hayes.
Paul Ryan came into the game for Dublin on 49 minutes and ended up with five points to his name. For Carlow, there was further woe when Damien Jordan picked up an injury. With 23 minutes to go he was replaced by his clubmate Ciaran Abbey. In the first half Richard Coady limped off. You could say that when Carlow do injuries they do them in big numbers. They never flinched. Nolan landed another point and even though Dublin continued to put scores on the board Carlow retained their shape and never lost their desire.
David English finished the scoring with a point from a free. The Carlow manager doesn’t like losing but he was not totally unhappy at the end.
“Dublin are a top-class outfit. I thought they were the best team we played in the championship last year. They did draw with Wexford and beat Galway in Leinster. Whether they got carried away with themselves, they didn’t finish the championship the way they thought they might have,” said Bonnar.
“We can’t wish these games away. We keep telling the lads this is what they dream of doing and want the challenge of being an intercounty player. They need to go out week in, week out and they need to match these sides as much as they can,” the Carlow manager said.
Carlow: Damien Jordan; Ross Smithers, Paul Doyle, Michael Doyle; Richard Coady, David English (0-1 free), Gary Bennett; Jack Kavanagh, Aaron Amond; John Michael Nolan (0-2), Marty Kavanagh (0-6, 0-4 frees), Kevin McDonald; Ted Joyce, Paul Coady, Cathal Tracey. Subs: Sean Whelan for R Coady (16 mins), Ciaran Abbey for Jordan (47 mins), Dean Tobin for Smithers (59 mins), Dara Tobin for P Coady (60 mins), Tadgh Daly for Amond (69 mins).
Dublin: Alan Nolan; Paddy Smyth, Eoghan O’Donnell, James Madden; Chris Crummey (0-2), Daire Gray (0-2), Sean Moran (0-2, 0-1, free); Jake Malone, Rian McBride (0-4); John Hetherton, Donal Burke, Mark Schutte; Oisin O’Rorke (0-3 frees), Ronan Hayes, Shane Barrett. Subs: David Kehoe (0-2) for Schutte (h/t), Cian O’Callaghan for Barrett (h/t), Paul Ryan (0-5, 0-3 frees, 65) for O’Rourke (49 mins), Alex McNeill for McBride (blood 63 mins), Fiontán McGibb for Burke (67 mins), Andrew Dunphy (67 mins) for Madden (69 mins).
Referee: Thomas Walsh (Waterford)