CARLOW 0-12 WICKLOW 0-09: IT'S BEEN a long time since any Carlow scribe could scrawl triumphantly after an encounter with our neighbours Wicklow, and when those who must read this, before going to print, are from the Garden County, it makes it all the sweeter.
The entire evening could be summed up in three lines; Carlow played well, it was the coldest night for a match ever and as is often the case for the O'Byrne Cup, the referee ruined the game as a spectacle.
The most bizarre moment of the night came when Darragh Foley was given a straight red card for a challenge on a Wicklow forward when all that had happened was the Carlow midfielder's momentum carried him into the player he was attempting to block as he kicked the ball towards goal.
The referee could have been forgiven if the angle he was at made the incident look malicious but his handing out of cards for the entire night bordered on ridiculous and any physicality was punished with a yellow card. Two Carlow players received their marching orders, Foley from above and Shane Mernagh for two yellow cards.
The big positive though, was that Carlow played some good football, at a high tempo and great intensity.
By the 13th minute Carlow were three points up thanks to Darragh Foley, Brian Murphy and Eoghan Ruth and only a free from Matthew Byrne gave Wicklow life in the 16th minute.
Two good points from Brian Murphy gave Carlow a 5-1 lead, the second in particular was kicked in fine style and 10 minutes before the break Carlow lead comfortably. That appeared to cause Carlow problems though and their comfort turned to complacency as Wicklow mounted a comeback.
James Sheerin with two points, Austin O'Malley and Matthew Byrne also got involved and suddenly the game was level. Foley and Byrne swapped frees to again level the scores at 6-6 but Willie Minchin kicked off a great week for himself with a lovely point from a hard angle and Carlow lead 7-6 at the break.
Only eight scores were provided in the second 35 minutes as the game turned into a refereeing spectacle. Yellow cards entered the double figures as yet another referee tried to impress an assessor in a competition like the O'Byrne Cup.
Thankfully for Carlow Willie Minchin and Daniel St. Ledger started the second half well and Carlow were three points up. Wicklow's Matthew Byrne kicked his side's last score for 21 minutes as Alan Kelly, St. Ledger and substitute Brendan Murphy all kicked points to complete Carlow's scoring.
Wicklow were awarded a dubious penalty which Andrew O'Brien saved in the Carlow goal and before full time Wicklow managed two scores from O'Malley and Eoin Keogh but the spoils were well and truly earned by Carlow.
Colm Byrne, Barry Murphy, Damian Power, Kevin Hanlon, Kevin Murphy, Mick McLoughlin, Paul McLoughlin, Ciaran Tyrrell, James Sheerin, Eugene Dunne, Daragh O'Sullivan, Brendan Kennedy, Austin O'Malley, Mark Doyle, Matthew Byrne. SUBS USED: Eoin Keogh, Jay Kelly, Paddy Dalton, Ian Sheerin, Rory Nolan
Andy O'Brien, BJ Molloy, Shane Redmond, Kevin Byrne, Benny Kavanagh, Derek Hayden, Tony Bolger, Kieran Nolan, Darragh Foley, Shane Mernagh, Ciaran Moran, Paul Reid, Eoghan Ruth, Keith Hession, Willie Minchin, Daniel St. Ledger. SUBS: Brendan Murphy for Redmond, Ray Walker for Brian Murphy. VENUE: Bray Emmets GAA Club, Wicklow REFEREE: Brendan Cawley (Kildare)