Murphys take control as Carlow stroll to victory
Carlow 3-8 Wicklow 0-6
When John Murphy palmed his second goal into the Wicklow net in the 51st minute and opened an 11-point lead, Carlow were well on their way to ending 2017 with a win.
The first half didn't suggest such a large margin of victory, Wicklow were happy to be level after 26 minutes on two points apiece playing against a strong wind while Carlow were unable to convert their opportunities. They kicked seven wides in the first half and Mark Jackson pulled off two great saves in the Wicklow goal.
But their dominance eventually paid off and in the final 10 minutes of the half they outscored Wicklow by 1-3 to a point and led by five points at the interval. Their full-forward line scored each of the points while good pressure on the Wicklow kick-out forced a poor pass and Sean Gannon was on hand to eventually put the ball past Jackson.
Murphy's two goals in the third quarter, however, the first a penalty, killed the game off as a contest. Even with the aid of the wind Wicklow were unable to trouble the Carlow goal, a strong defensive effort keeping the home side at bay.
At the other end of the field, Carlow could do what Wicklow couldn't in the first half by creating chances. They kept the pitch wide and with superior athleticism they were able to work the ball through the first line of the Wicklow defence. Only poor shooting or last-ditch tackling stopped the margin from being even bigger.
At times in the second half the game almost came to a standstill with Carlow, and especially Brendan Murphy, strolling around midfield passing the ball from one side to the other, baiting the Wicklow team to come and tackle. If necessary they could inject a little pace and Diarmuid Walshe's point was a thing of beauty, his dummy fooling nearly everyone there.
New Wicklow manager John Evans handed debuts to five starting players alongside some of Wicklow's veteran campaigners and he kept that in mind after pointing out Carlow's greater physicality and how the two goals after half-time hampered his team.
"We had a lot of young lads out there and this is the place to play them," said Evans. "While I'm disappointed, Carlow have been on the road for the last three or four years and certainly proved last year how formidable they are. I suppose we were a bit naive as well."
SCORERS - Carlow: J Murphy 2-1 (1 pen), S Gannon 1-0, P Broderick (1f), D Foley (1f) 0-2 each, C Moran, D Walshe, J Clarke 0-1 each. Wicklow: M Jackson (2f), D Hayden 0-2 each; S Furlong (1f), R Finn 0-1 each.
CARLOW - R Molloy; BJ Molloy, S Redmond, C Lawlor; J Morrissey, D St Ledger, C Moran; B Murphy, S Murphy; S Gannon, D O'Brien, E Ruth; P Broderick, D Foley, J Murphy. Subs: C Kearney for R Molloy, L Roberts for D St Ledger, D Walshe for D O'Brien (all h-t), D Moran for S Murphy (52), B Kavanagh for D Foley (56), L Walker for J Morrissey (56), J Clarke for E Ruth (66), B Cawley for BJ Molloy (67), C Crowley for P Broderick (67), S Doyle for S Gannon (69), J Kennedy for C Moran (69).
WICKLOW - M Jackson; J Snell, H Wilson, P Merrigan; R O'Brien, D Healy, J Crowe; R Finn, K Murphy; P O'Toole, D Hayden, C McGee; J McGrath, S Furlong, C Byrne. Subs: C Hyland for H Wilson (22, inj.), D Fitzgerald for C McGee (h-t), G Murphy for J McGrath (h-t), T Smith for P O'Toole (52), B Kennedy for J Crowe (52), A Nugent for C Byrne (55), PJ O'Keeffe for J Snell (59), M Kenny for S Furlong (62), S Kearon for D Hayden 69).
REF - J King (Dublin)