'Out-worked, out-fought, out-played' - Kildare boss Cian O'Neill laments 'catastrophic' Carlow loss
Leinster SFC quarter-final: Carlow 2-14 Kildare 1-10
How did Kildare get here?
On a scorching Saturday at Bord na Móna O'Connor Park just under a year ago, Cian O'Neill's side were the coming team.
They had just filleted Meath in a Leinster semi-final playing a brand of quick, confident, attacking football, and were relishing a crack at Dublin in the provincial decider, the young Lilywhites having already secured promotion to Division 1.
Almost 12 months on and 12 consecutive defeats later, Kildare manager O'Neill stood in the same spot in Tullamore, facing the media following a first defeat to Carlow since 1953, and forced to admit that it was possibly the most horrific loss handed to his county in 25 years.
O'Neill has become used to conducting sombre press huddles, but his 12th in a row could well have been a post-match post-mortem on a side whose championship prospects look dead as they enter the qualifiers.
"Catastrophic is the word I would use," O'Neill said.
"Out-worked, out-fought, out-played - that's a travesty for the work the lads have put in."
Kildare kicked 11 scores and 12 wides, including seven in a disastrous first half that saw Éanna O'Connor - son of former Kerry manager Jack - withdrawn before the interval after missing a penalty and three frees.
The misses piled up and while Daniel Flynn benefited when Carlow goalkeeper Robbie Molloy dropped a routine catch early on, it was the only time Kildare were clinical in front of goal.
"It's something I need to look at from my performance, it's something the management do as a whole, we all need to look at ourselves now," O'Neill said.
"We are in the back door. It's never the way you want to go but we have to turn around and prepare for it. But apart from game-plans, and videos analysis, and tactics board, sometimes you have to just turn up and play and fight. Not only were we out-played today, we were out-fought," he added.
"We were at 32pc shooting from play. At no level of sport is that acceptable. That's something I'm disgusted with."
For the victors, it is another chapter in Gaelic football's most unlikely tale and as Carlow performances go, this was even more Carlowian than usual: tigerish tackling, efficient score-taking and a vociferous travelling support roaring them on to their latest upset, which was sealed in the fifth minute of injury time when corner-back Conor Lawlor slid the ball to the net.
As always, midfielder Sean Murphy exploded forward as if shot from a cannon, while Paul Broderick again showed the temperament of a dead-eyed hunter to land nine frees from nine - with two cracking scores at the start of each half settling his side.
But it was two crucial Broderick scores down the stretch that encapsulated the resilience that Carlow manager Turlough O'Brien has bred into his squad.
They benefited from some good fortune - a long-range Daniel St Ledger free carried all the way to the net to cancel out Flynn's early poach - but this win was earned and deserved by the minnows who refuse to bow to anyone.
"All the experts realistically had a Kildare win here today," O'Brien said.
"This team can go a long way yet. People keep saying the game is more negative but we scored 2-14 here today. It is more tactical. It is a game of chess and we have a few grandmasters out there."
Carlow regularly funnelled 15 men behind the ball but crucially, were able to strike a balance that allowed raids up the field, where they profitably pillaged a score on almost every journey.
While their defensive system gets a lot of attention, their attack yielded the stat of the day - 16 scores and not a single wide, with their shooters treating each attacking opportunity like men granted an hour of daylight not to be wasted after 23 hours in solitary confinement.
After booking a first Leinster semi-final place since 2011, and beating Kildare for the first time since 1953, the next date Carlow would like to consign to history is 1944 - their last Leinster final appearance.
Laois stand in their way, a team O'Brien knows well after losing to John Sugrue's men in the Division 4 league final, but Carlow aren't ready to stop believing just yet.
"It's all to play for," O'Brien said.
"There's nothing between the two counties. It's great for the Leinster championship and I think Carlow have added a lot of colour to the championship. We've captured people's imagination with the way we play, the way we handle the media and the way we are so open with our public."
Scorers - Carlow: P Broderick 0-11 (9fs); D St Ledger, C Lawlor 1-0 each; S Gannon, D Foley, C Moran 0-1 each. Kildare: D Flynn 1-1; K Feely (3f), P Cribbin 0-3 each, K Flynn 0-2; K Cribbin 0-1.
Carlow - R Molloy 6; C Crowley 6, S Redmond 7, C Lawlor 8; J Morrissey 7, D St Ledger 7, C Moran 8; S Murphy 8, E Ruth 7; S Gannon 7, D Foley 8, D Walshe 6; P Broderick 9, D O'Brien 7, J Murphy 6. Subs: D Moran for C Crowley (42), C Lawler for D Walshe (54), L Walker for D O'Brien (63), BJ Molloy for D Foley (75).
Kildare - M Donnellan 6; P Kelly 5, D Hyland 6, M O'Grady 5; J Byrne 6, E Doyle 6, K Flynn 7; K Feely 6, P Cribbin 7; F Conway 6, K Cribben 6, P Brophy 5; É O'Connor 5, D Flynn 6, N Kelly 6. Subs: C Healy for É O'Connor (29), D Slattery for K Cribbin (53), T Moolick for P Brophy (60), E O'Callaghan for N Kelly (66)
Ref - C Reilly (Meath).