Baker demands more as Bergin brilliance digs Offaly out of hole
A splendid 69th-minute goal from midfielder Joe Bergin kept Offaly's promotion hopes alive at Dr Cullen Park, as a commendable effort from 14-man Carlow fell just agonisingly short.
This was a game John Meyler's side should have won. They led by four points (1-9 to 0-8) after 55 minutes and looked to be on their way to a shock victory and their first league points of the campaign.
But an unconvincing Offaly side dug themselves out of a hole when, having cut the arrears to a single point, a silly free conceded by Carlow in the visitors' half saw Derek Morkan launch a great free into the goalmouth for Bergin to make perfect contact with a one-handed swing that sent the sliotar flashing to the net.
Carlow got off to a dreadful start when half-forward Sean Murphy received a straight red card from referee Sean Cleere in the fifth minute for an off-the-ball incident.
Offaly never hurled with any great fluency but the extra man meant they were comfortable at the back and they were 0-6 to 0-4 ahead at the end of an undistinguished half.
Carlow took the game to their fancied opponents in the second half and had their reward on 49 minutes when John Michael Nolan's centre was met expertly by Craig Doyle for a brilliant goal which put them ahead for the first time (1-6 to 0-8).
The hosts then added three unanswered points as a rattled Offaly side were guilty of a succession of bad wides from play and frees.
But with Shane Doley, Colin Egan and Brian Carroll taking the game to Carlow, they cut the arrears to the minimum before Bergin's goal brought heartache for a plucky Carlow side who had run Limerick to three points in their previous outing, having lost by five to Wexford.
Offaly manager Ollie Baker was high in his praise of Carlow's performance, commenting that his side would have preferred it to have been a 15 v 15 game.
"That performance was not good enough and won't be good enough to beat Limerick on Sunday," he said.
Offaly, he said, had continued to make chances even when behind and eventually they had edged victory.
Meyler said he could not have asked for more from his team and said it would be a matter of dusting themselves down for the home game against Antrim on Sunday.
He felt it was a game Carlow could have won, just as they could have beaten Wexford and forced a draw with Limerick.
"But we still have no points on the board," he sighed.
Man of the Match: D Kenny (Offaly)
Scorers – Offaly: J Bergin 1-3 (3fs), S Dooley 0-5 (3fs, 0-1 '65'), B Carroll 0-2, C Egan, S Ryan 0-1 each. Carlow: M Kavanagh 0-4fs, S Kavanagh 0-3 (2fs), C Doyle 1-0, E Coady, M Brennan, J M Nolan 0-1 each.
Offaly – J Dempsey 6; C McDonald 7, D Kenny 8, D King 5; D Morkan 6, R Hanniffy 7, K Brady 6; J Bergin 7, B Carroll l7; C Egan 6, C Parlon 5, D Molloy 5; S Dooley 6, J Mulrooney 5, S Ryan 6. Subs: D Mooney 6 for King (h-t), O Kealey 6 for Molloy (h-t), T Carroll 6 for Ryan (51), T Bolger for Parlon (64), S Cleary for Mulrooney (65).
Carlow – N Roberts 7; D English 6, E Nolan 8, D Shaw 7; A Corcoran 6, R Coady 7, J O'Hara 6; M Brennan 6, E Coady 7; S Murphy 5; S Kavanagh 7, M Kavanagh 6; C Doyle 6, J M Nolan 6l, J Kavangh 5. Subs: P Coady 5 for J Kavanagh (46), P Nolan for Doyle (66).
Ref – S Cleere (Kilkenny).