Good performance by Carlow against Dublin in first outing
CARLOW DUBLIN 1-12 3-13
TAKE A deep breath folks, hold it in, count backwards from ten, and exhale, yes the GAA year has kicked off again and not a moment too soon either.
While Carlow's footballers having been running themselves ragged and working like Trojans for the last three months the rest of us have enjoyed such pleasures as alcohol, turkey and ham and a range of take away's during the festive season.
The training is paying off too with Carlow players looking not too far off the pace of Dublin, who let's face it are almost paid professionals at this stage and yet Carlow competed for every scrap that came available and had they played at all in the opening ten minutes who knows what the score could have been.
That was the biggest problem on Sunday, in the opening ten minutes Carlow forgot they were in a game and seemed to focus on the fact that they were facing the 2011 All Ireland champions, however, once the scallionaters woke up, they gave Dublin a real game and by half time the men in red yellow and green were playing arguably the better football.
In saying that though Carlow will be kicking themselves, for time and time again any one of the six backs would get on a block or a tackle and clear their lines only to kick possession away almost immediately. You just can't do that against Dublin, they consistently got shots off whereas Carlow repeatedly found themselves between the Dublin 45 and 65 metre lines with nowhere to go.
Some more match practice, some game time in the legs, an improvement in decision making and confidence in their own ability and Anthony Rainbow has a team that are heading for Division 3 next year.
Credit to Dublin on Sunday they looked like a team in wonderful physical condition. Even their "small fella's are solid blocks" one spectator remarked after the game. By the seventh minute Dublin were 0-4 to 0-0 up and it was a four point gap that Carlow would never close.
Robert McCarthy capitalised on a poor Carlow clearance for the opening score of the game and four minutes later in front of the stand Diarmuid Connolly was initially bottled up by a Carlow defender but the Dub simply turned the other way and curled over a fine score.
Carlow looked to go on the offensive but some shocking passing allowed McCarthy in for his second score. By the time Bernard Brogan added a free it looked like it was going to be one of those days but Carlow came to life and Alan Kelly fed a pass to Daniel St.Ledger and despite the close attention of Ger Brennan he found the target.
That score and a block by Tony Bolger and a marvellous and typical high catch from Derek Hayden really got Carlow moving and a great point from Eoghan Ruth epitomised the new Carlow effort, after determined play form Martin Doyle and Con Murphy.
Brian Murphy went on to kick Carlow's next three points with two frees and one fantastic score which came almost instantly from a Cluxton mistake.
Dublin consistently tapped over the scores though and never let the home side really get back into proceedings. The killer blow in the first half was a Diarmuid Connolly goal. He found himself close to goal and despite the on rushing Trevor O'Reilly and the presence of two Carlow defenders the All Ireland winner found the top corner. Carlow trailed by four at the break by 1-9 to 0-8 after Darragh Foley had added two very well taken frees.
The second half turned out to be a real let down. Carlow attacked with the same menace that they had in the first half and even the cool as a cucumber Stephen Cluxton at some stages didn't know where to place his kickouts.
However, six minutes in Robert McCarthy found the net with the simplest of finishes and although Carlow fought hard, once that soft score had been conceded the result wasn't in doubt.
With 15 minutes to play Paddy Quinn buried the ball in the net after the Carlow defence had been ripped to shreds down the middle and by that stage the game was over. Brendan Murphy came off the bench to kick a fine point despite slipping and Eoghan Ruth has thankfully brought his brilliant form from last year along with him for 2013. Darrragh was immense from the frees all day and at the back Molloy, Hayden, Kavanagh and Doyle played with hearts on sleeves. The next test is tomorrow night (Wednesday) in Bray where Carlow take on Wicklow.