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27 January 2013; Carlow manager John Meyler. Bord na Mna Walsh Cup, Second Round, Carlow v Galway, Dr. Cullen Park, Carlow. Picture credit: Dire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

27 January 2013; Carlow manager John Meyler. Bord na Mna Walsh Cup, Second Round, Carlow v Galway, Dr. Cullen Park, Carlow. Picture credit: Dire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

27 January 2013; Carlow manager John Meyler. Bord na Mna Walsh Cup, Second Round, Carlow v Galway, Dr. Cullen Park, Carlow. Picture credit: Dire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

JOHN MEYLER and his Carlow hurling team can probably attest more convincingly than most as to the fine yet painfully difficult difference between winning and losing tight games.

As an opening act to their 2013 nearly-men routine, they gave John Allen's side the fright of their season in Limerick. They could, and perhaps should, have drawn the match but spurned late chances for glory and went down by just two points to Division 1B's only 100-per-centers.

Against Meyler's former charges Wexford, Carlow found themselves a point to the good with 10 minutes to go, missed an easy-ish goal chance and then immediately coughed one up to Rory Jacob, proceeded to have two men sent off, before losing by a largely unfair margin of five points.

More anguish came when Offaly arrived at Dr Cullen Park and the home side stood three points taller than Ollie Baker's men yet contrived to lose to a last-minute, overhead-pull strike for goal from Joe Bergin.

Little lessons absorbed and patronising pats on the head endured, but no points.

"The Offaly one was hard to take," admits Meyler, in his first season in charge on Barrowside.

"You had that opportunity on your hand. We should have defended better. But they're things you learn from constantly playing those type of opposition.

"If you don't put them away, they will put you away. The higher up you go, the more you have to take those chances."

Then, when Antrim came to Carlow last weekend and the sniff of an upset filled the local air, Meyler's men crumbled entirely under its unfamiliar pressure. "An expectation that we were favourites to win the match," surmised Meyler of the chief reason behind their malaise.

"We've learned that this year and we want to stay in 1B because of what we've learned and rectify it next year.

"And re-apply them in the division next year."

Already then, Carlow are in a Division 1B relegation play-off, most likely against Antrim again and judging by his tone, you can probably expect Meyler to spare the horses somewhat in Parnell Park this Sunday.

Similarly, he reckons Dublin have their eye on a bigger picture now that, barring a last-day Armageddon, they have qualified for another crack at Limerick and a spot in Division 1A next season by virtue of, as he saw it, putting a pre-emptive boot into Wexford last weekend.

"Dublin are playing Wexford in the Leinster championship and I think Dublin went down to Wexford to lay down a marker," he says. "I'm sure they would have felt if they got over Wexford, they would have gotten over Carlow and into a Division 1B final.

"And they also wanted to lay down a marker for the Championship. And say: 'look, we're the team competing with Kilkenny and Galway and you're not coming inside that.' I would say that was their sole intention. Put the boot in and lay down a marker for the Championship."

 

Coursing

Meyler and Anthony Daly know each other well, having thread the same path in the hurling hinterlands of North Kerry, though he reckons the Clareman "followed me down to Kilmoyley. I think initially, he was more interested in coursing dogs!"

Meyler won four Kerry SHCs with Kilmoyley while Daly won two and he has already noticed similarities between the Kingdom and Carlow.

"There are pockets," he explains. "There are eight hurling clubs in Kerry and eight in Carlow and they're trying to get hurling going again in Carlow town just like they're trying to get it going again in Tralee.

"But it's funny. When I drive to Carlow, the last villages I go through are Gowran, DJ Carey's town and Clara, who won the All-Ireland Intermediate Championship there a couple of weeks ago.

"It's only down the road and really, there should be no difference between the hurling on that side of the border and hurling on this side of the border. There is a great pocket there. It just needs to be nurtured."

He adds: "What I've seen here is a great willingness to learn. A great willingness to educate themselves in terms of better hurling. They're 'bursting for road'.

"There is no fall-off in training. There is no fall-off in intensity. There is no excuses. While we let ourselves down badly on Sunday against Antrim, we face into Dublin on Sunday still confident you can go and give Dublin a game in Parnell Park."


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