CARLOW 0-08 DCU 3-08: AFTER THE good performance against Dublin and a strong win over Wicklow, Carlow supporters expected continued improvement on Sunday against the students but it wasn't to be.
Blame the three games in a week, blame the cold, wet, slippy conditions, blame everything you can think of, the bottom line from the game on Sunday was that at times the football was very poor.
Only two forwards scored for Carlow, one from each line, and that's a stat that will not gain promotion from Division 4. Carlow's final pass once they breach the opposing 45 always seems to be 50/50 either a chase between defender and forward, or an aerial battle which too many times results in Carlow's opponents on the attack and puts pressure on their own defence.
The one defence that has been offered from optimistic supporters is that the starting 15 on Sunday was missing some household names like Murphy, Gannon, Lawlor, O'Reilly, and the breath of fresh air that is Ray Walker.
There were some positives to take however and Sunday proved that Carlow now have three exceptional goalkeepers, Craig Kearney may have conceded three goals, but none were his fault and with Andy O'Brien saving a penalty on Wednesday, it leaves Trevor O'Reilly with some serious competition.
Other positives include Darragh Foley's exploits in front of goal, Eoghan Ruth's ability to win ball that he shouldn't win, Willie Minchin proving his worth as a scoring forward and Benny Kavanagh showing All Star signs.
The O'Byrne cup has been what Anthony Rainbow needed, a chance to see where his panel of players for 2013 are at.
Against DCU they weren't really anywhere, but in a similar case to the Dublin encounter had they not conceded goals the result could have been different. The six goals they have conceded in the three O'Byrne cup games are a cause for concern with all too often two or three passes opening up the defence with ease.
On Sunday the first goal went in before 10 minutes were on the clock and it sent a wave of dread around Dr. Cullen Park.
That goal came from Jack McCarron and it was a case as described above where defenders elected to mark men who were not a threat instead of taking the most immediate threat or those nearest to goal. McCarron had an easy finish in the end.
Before that Eoghan Ruth had given Carlow the lead with a fine score, McCarron responded for the visitors but Willie Minchin curled over a beauty to restore Carlow's lead.
Ten minutes before half time Donal Smith smashed home a cracking goal having been given acres of space and the students had a seven point lead. Shane Redmond intercepted a ball for Carlow and handed to Minchin who from 45m out drove over the bar, but the Smith goal followed and took the shine away.
Eoghan Ruth kicked the final score of the half and Carlow trailed 2-5 to 0-4
In almost a carbon copy of the Wicklow game the second half died away for a while and it took 11 minutes for a score to be registered. When it came, it came from Darragh Foley but there is no doubt Carlow had been given a new lease of life by the introduction of Benny Kavanagh. The Eire Og man came off the bench and looked like he meant business, carrying the game to DCU.
Foley scored a free and Minchin scored his third point to make it seem like Carlow were on the way back. There were no more scores until the final 15 minutes and out of the final five scores three of them came from DCU, a goal and a point from substitute Conor McGraynor and a point form McCarron, all but insured a win for the Students.
Carlow kicked the final two scores from the reliable Darragh Foley who, thankfully, had his red card against Wicklow correctly rescinded; the second point being a superb strike a minute into injury time.
Craig Kearney, Kevin Byrne, Shane Mernagh, Martin Doyle, Kieran Nolan, Derek Hayden, Martin Doyle, Darragh Foley, Shane Redmond, Ciaran Moran, Paul Reid, Eoghan Ruth, Keith Hession, Willie Minchin, Daniel St.Ledger. SUBS: Benny Kavanagh for Bolger, Alan Kelly for Moran, Bolger for Nolan.
James Farrelly, Jack Smith, William Lowry, Eamon Doherty, Cathal Ellis, Johnny Cooper, Michael Quinn, Craig Dunleavy, Paul Flynn, Cormac Diamond, Jack McCarron, Brian Donnelly, Jack Brady. SUBS: Conor McGraynor for Flynn.
VENUE: Dr Cullen Park REFEREE: Fergal Smith (Offaly)