Carlow produce stunning second half revival to banish Offaly to Division 2 in 2020
CARLOW 2-14 OFFALY 1-16
FOURTEEN-man Carlow staged a stunning comeback in Tullamore this afternoon to banish Offaly to Division 2 of next year’s Allianz Hurling League.
Colm Bonnar’s side trailed by 11 points at the break but, propelled by a massive wind, they tore into an error-strewn Offaly for the entire second half of this Division 1B relegation play-off.
Marty Kavanagh (with 0-8) and Chris Nolan (with 1-4, all from play) were instrumental in a victory that was ultimately well deserved, and one that condemns Offaly to life outside the league’s top-12 elite next season.
While the wind was a huge factor in this game of two halves, what made Carlow’s recovery all the more impressive was the fact that they were a man down for the last hour after Edward Byrne’s tenth minute dismissal.
The key to victory lay in the timing of their two goals, both resulting from long deliveries dropped into the Offaly goalmouth: Seamus Murphy kicked home the first amid a melee of bodies two minutes after the restart, and then Nolan was credited with the decisive touch after hesitation by home ‘keeper Eoghan Cahill, just four minutes later.
That left Carlow just four point adrift with half-an-hour remaining, and they eventually went ahead for the first time via Mark Kavanagh’s 68th minute free.
John Michael Nolan then doubled their lead. In response, Joe Bergin brought his tally to 1-7 by drilling over a free at the start of two injury-time minutes, but then a pressurised Conor Langton missed a chance to force extra-time.
In front of a paltry attendance, numbering in the hundreds, Carlow celebrated at full-time as if they’d won the All-Ireland.
Offaly were hoping to avoid their lowliest spring status since 2005, when last they competed outside the league’s top 12 – but bounced back by winning Division 2.
Here, the hosts played with the benefits of a powerful breeze blowing straight towards the Park Avenue end; and they weren’t shy about taking immediate advantage, rattling up an unanswered 1-5 in the first dozen minutes.
They already had 0-3 on the board before Shane Kinsella’s delivery from midfield dropped on the edge of the square, where Bergin’s one-handed flick diverted the sliotar beyond Brian Tracey for Offaly’s first goal.
Carlow were partial authors of their own downfall, losing joint-captain Byrne to a straight red card in the tenth minute.
Byrne had just won a free-in for a foul by Niall Houlihan, but the linesman alerted referee John Keenan to an apparent strike after the foul. He banished Byrne and overturned the free – a double-whammy - while Houlihan departed through injury.
Shane Dooley, making his first start of this campaign, stretched Offaly into a nine-point lead (1-7 to 0-1) at the end of the first quarter, firing over his second point when goal was on his mind after Bergin’s arrowed crossfield pass.
But their scoring rate dropped in the second quarter and their half-time lead – 1-11 to 0-3 – looked emphatic but not necessarily decisive given the strength of the wind.
So it would prove, disastrously so for the faltering Faithful.
SCORERS - Carlow: M Kavanagh 0-8 (4f), C Nolan 1-4, S Murphy 1-1, JM Nolan 0-1. Offaly: J Bergin 1-7 (4f, 1 ‘65’), S Dooley 0-3, S Kinsella, K Connolly 0-2 each, K Dunne, E Cahill (f) 0-1 each.
CARLOW: B Tracey; M Doyle, P Doyle, A Corcoran; K McDonald, D English, R Coady; J Kavanagh, S Whelan; S Murphy, M Kavanagh, JM Nolan; C Nolan, E Byrne, J Doyle. Subs: J Murphy for J Kavanagh (34), T Joyce for J Doyle (60), J Nolan for J Murphy (66).
OFFALY: E Cahill; P Rigney, N Houlihan, B Conneely; D Egan, P Camon, A Treacy; S Kinsella, C Gath; K Dunne, S Dolan, C Egan; S Dooley, J Bergin, K Connolly. Subs: A Flynn for Houlihan (inj 10), D Shortt for Treacy (ht), C Langton for Connolly (56), M Egan for Gath (70), C Taylor for Conneely (70)
REF: J Keenan (Wicklow).