Byrne brace restores Royal pride
SECONDS after the final whistle sounded in Tullamore last night, Brendan Murphy leaned over and guzzled some air.
The scoreboard showed a hiding for his Carlow team in this Leinster quarter-final replay, but almost single-handedly the former Sydney Swans player had taken the challenge to a greatly improved -- and indeed revitalised -- Meath team.
Seamus McEnaney's men didn't manage to win a ball in the middle of the field for almost 15 minutes and it began to look as though the gritty Carlow display of last Sunday was no flash in the pan.
Murphy was at the fulcrum of it all. He was the main reason that the underdogs were still in the game after 20 minutes.
From then on, though, the Meath side knitted together, found another gear and hit the home straight. They hit 1-8 without reply and led 1-11 to 0-4 at the break.
The goal was inspirational. Substitute Peadar Byrne dashed down the right flank and buried an unstoppable shot to the back of the net.
Moments later, the inspired Graham Reilly smashed against the crossbar. Suddenly, Carlow were starved of oxygen and couldn't get beyond their own half.
Luke Dempsey's men now looked bereft of ideas. The passion that they opened up with faded quickly. After last week's heroics it must have been hard to find a chip on their shoulder when everyone was slapping them on the back.
They had no answer to the urgency of Shane McAnarney, the industrious Damien Carroll, Bryan Menton, Brian Farrell and Reilly.
Byrne's goal got them humming, though. By the interval Joe Sheridan was the only Meath forward not to score. He smashed against the left post in the opening seconds of the second half.
After Sheridan's near-miss Menton broke through only to be denied by the excellent Trevor O'Reilly -- his second superb save of the evening.
By now, the pattern was a familiar one. JJ Smith came close to finding the net after 52 minutes, but his close-in free was saved twice by the Meath defence, the second from a class save by David Gallagher, the former international rules 'keeper.
Keith Jackson did take the awful look off the scoreboard with a fine solo goal with 15 minutes left to leave them 1-16 to 1-7 behind, but there was no way back.
With time just up Byrne netted his second goal of the day after capitalising on a poor kickout. Meath push on to the semi-final with a decent performance behind them, but it's the scenic route for Carlow who can only hope that their season doesn't simply fade away.
Meath: B Farrell 0-8 (5f), G Reilly 0-4, P Byrne 2-0, D Carroll, A Forde, J Queeney 0-2 each, C Ward, C Gillespie, B Menton 0-1 each. Carlow: JJ Smith 0-5 (3f), K Jackson 1-0, Brian Murphy, K Nolan, D Foley, Brendan Murphy (1f) 0-1 each
Meath: D Gallagher, M Burke, K Reilly, D Keogan, D Tobin, S McAnarney, B Menton, C Gillespie, G Reilly, B Meade, D Carroll, A Forde, B Farrell, J Sheridan, C Ward. Subs: P Byrne for B Meade (inj 18), E Harrington for K Reilly (60), J Queally for G Reilly (62), C O'Connor for D Tobin (65), M Collins for C Ward (66)
Carlow: T O'Reilly, P Murphy, C Lawlor, B Kavanagh, K Nolan, S Redmond, T Bolger, Brendan Murphy, D Foley, Brian Murphy, C Murphy, E Ruth, JJ Smith, C Walshe S Gannon. Subs: B Lambe for K Nolan (42), K Jackson for C Murphy (42), BJ Molloy for P Murphy (53), L Shepard for D Foley (61), P McElligot for T Bolger (66)
Referee: D Fahy (Longford)
Sunday Indo Sport