CARLOW’S intercounty season all comes down to eight days when they take on Down in the fourth round of the Joe McDonagh Cup in Netwatch Cullen Park on Saturday. A week later they travel to Tullamore to play Offaly. If Carlow lose on Saturday then they can forget about a place in the final. Not to be forgotten is the possibility of relegation to the Christy Ring if Meath were to pull a result out of somewhere.
Even with two out of five scheduled games to go, it does look as if Antrim will remain top of the group by beating Meath on Saturday. The Saffrons are at home to Kerry in their final fixture.
Leaving Antrim aside, Offaly, Kerry, Carlow and Down are still going into Saturday’s games with hopes of advancing. It is all on a knife-edge and the table will only become clearer at the end of these round four games.
Tom Mullally, the Carlow manager, will not be looking at tables and possible outcomes until after the Down game on Saturday. Losing to Kerry put Carlow under massive pressure and has them depending on results elsewhere. His job is to get a performance from his Carlow players.
“That is the reality. We have been well aware of that particularly since the final whistle in the Kerry game. The game had to be upped after that and now we can only control what we can do,” Mullally said.
“If we put ourselves into a position where we win these two games, it will pose questions for others. That is what we have to do.”
The 2nd round no-show against Kerry came right out of the nowhere. It was baffling and perplexing. In response, Carlow produced a performance in Antrim only losing by three points but the damage had been done.
“The last time we played in Netwatch Cullen Park, we didn’t turn up and it is going to be particularly important now for the forwards to turn up,” pointed out Mullally.
“We got bullied out of it and from a character point of view, we didn’t show the leadership required from some of our more experienced players. We are hoping that was a once off.”
It may not completely all come down to this Saturday. It does if Carlow don’t win. Down will come with a similar approach. The result against Kerry was a sporting Carlow disaster.
“For us, if we have genuinely learned a lesson from that match, we will be competitive on Saturday and will make decisions which will get us across the line. If we get a result on Saturday then it comes down to the following Saturday and we will be putting ourselves in a position to be competing for it,” agrees the Carlow manager.
By Kieran Murphy
Joe McDonagh Cup Round 4 Fixtures
Kerry v Offaly, Austin Stack Park, 1pm
Carlow v Down, Netwatch Cullen Park, 2pm
Meath v Antrim, Pairc Tailteann, 1pm.
Joe McDonagh Cup Table
Pos Team P W D L F A Pts
1 Antrim 3 3 0 0 99 80 6
2 Kerry 3 2 0 1 91 50 4
3 Offaly 3 2 0 1 87 74 4
4 Carlow 3 1 0 2 82 75 2
5 Down 3 1 0 2 71 87 2
6 Meath 3 0 0 3 49 113 0