Rainbow coalition a big hit in Carlow
THE Rainbow coalition is topping the polls in Carlow after their heroics against Meath last Sunday set up a Leinster SFC replay in Tullamore this evening.
Carlow boss Luke Dempsey reckons that signing up former Kildare All Star Anthony Rainbow as team coach was an inspired move.
And his view was echoed by captain Shane Redmond, who appreciates how the Carlow players have benefited from Rainbow's experience.
Dempsey revealed that he had tried and failed to woo Rainbow before finally getting him to join his backroom team, and tips the Kildare man for a career in management.
"I have known Anthony for years. He's a very good coach and he has great enthusiasm," said Dempsey.
"I looked for him last year, but he was busy with the Kildare U-21s. I went searching again this year because anybody in their fourth year in management needs to freshen it up, big time.
"I was just delighted when Anthony agreed to come in as our defensive coach.
"In addition to the huge experience he gained over 20 years on the Kildare panel, he has brought great belief to the players because of his conviction about what they can achieve.
"I can see how well management will suit him. I can see that role for Anthony down the road if he's interested."
Equally important for the Carlow boss was Rainbow's compatibility with the other members of the management team.
Former county players Sean Kavanagh and Adrian Corcoran are selectors, Wayne Midleton trains the team, while John Dunphy is the liaison officer.
"Having two former players in the group who can lend their experience is a great help to the players and they respond to that," added Dempsey.
Redmond (22), who recently qualified as a civil engineer, said of Rainbow: "Anthony commands a lot of respect for what he's done in football and he has brought a lot of the same intensity he had as a player to our training.
"The other factor is that he's not out of the game too long. He has a real grasp of what's going on out there, and that's a huge benefit."
Meath boss Seamus 'Banty' McEnaney name-checked Rainbow in his post-match assessment of the drawn match, which ended in dramatic fashion with Carlow's JJ Smith scoring a 73rd-minute equalising goal to force the replay.
"We knew what Carlow were going to fire at us. We knew how well Luke Dempsey and Anthony Rainbow had prepared the team. We gave everything and it wasn't good enough," said McEnaney.
Dempsey and his management team will know that a wounded Meath is a dangerous animal when given a second chance, but Carlow are relishing the chance to have another go at the Royals.
Redmond expects Meath to have their homework done for the replay, but Carlow have also been busy on the training pitch.
"There were a lot of areas in which we were dominant for a lot of the match last Sunday and they'll probably try to change how they play in some of them," he said. "It's up to us to react to what they do.
"As for ourselves, there's a few things we need to change. We made a lot of mistakes -- we handed them a lot of easy scores. We worked a lot harder for many of our scores than they had to for some of theirs.
"I think we just need to tighten it up. We need to keep the ball a bit better and, if we do that, hopefully things will go our way."
Carlow went into the first game with no fanfare after a Division 4 league campaign in which they won just three of their eight matches.
However, having reached the Leinster semi-finals last year, the players and management knew there was more to come.
"We were confident enough going into the match that we had what it took," said Redmond.
"It was no great surprise to anyone on the team -- or among the backroom team -- that we were there or thereabouts coming towards the end of the match.
"I suppose, the way the game went, you had to be relieved with the last- minute goal, but there was some little disappointment that we hadn't finished it off.
"In fairness, we had a poor league campaign and there wasn't that much expectation or hype from the supporters before last Sunday's match. I suppose that was understandable, but the support was still very vocal. Fair play to them.
"I'm sure it will be again for the replay. It was great to see a bit of buzz around the town during the week about football.
"It's great to see, because there's a lot of times in Carlow when it's not on the agenda."
Carlow are still keeping their fingers crossed that midfield star Brendan Murphy, who suffered concussion in the first game, will be cleared to play.