Marty Kavanagh and Kevin McDonald both saw red in Tralee on Sunday as Carlow lost out to Kerry by two points in the second round of this year’s National Hurling League.
Carlow made eight changes from last week’s defeat to Kildare, including the introduction of Marty Kavanagh in the half-forward line while Ciaran Kavanagh, originally named to start at full forward, was replaced in the starting lineup by Tony Lawlor.
The Kingdom hit two points and had six wides in the opening ten minutes of the game, St. Mullins’ Kavanagh getting Carlow’s first score after 11 mins to narrow the margin. By the first quarter of the game, it was the home side that held a two-point lead over the visitors as Kerry led 0-3 to 0-1. Carlow would hit a purple patch, however, playing with the elements saw Tom Mullally’s men hit four unanswered points to leave Carlow leading 0-5 to 0-3 with 22 minutes on the clock, helped in no small part by a monster point from Kevin McDonald in midfield.
Kerry may have been wasteful with their chances in the first half, but Padraig Boyle kept the home side in touch throughout.
Points from Marty Kavanagh, Fiachra Fitzpatrick, and Diarmuid Byrne helped Carlow keep the pressure on the home side. Both teams were trading points right up to half-time and it was Tom Mullally and his Carlow men that would have been the happier going into the break with a two-point lead.
The tide turned right at the start of the second half as referee Michael Kennedy flashed his red car in the direction of Carlow’s Marty Kavanagh for a loose hurl on one of the Kerry players.
Kavanagh had picked up a yellow card in the first half and saw his match end very prematurely as Carlow tried to hold onto their lead. It didn’t take Kerry long to claw their way back into the game and less than ten minutes after the restart the sides were level 0-10 each.
Padraig Boyle, who was by far Kerry’s most prolific player ending the game with 10 points, put Kerry into the lead 0-13 to 0-11 by the third quarter of the game. Carlow were right in the mix with only a goal between the teams coming down the stretch before disaster struck.
Having lost Kavanagh right at the start of the second half Carlow went down to 13 as Kevin McDonald saw his game come to an end when referee Kennedy flashed a straight red to the midfielder for a high tackle.
To be fair, Carlow never gave up and battled right to the end and they were rewarded deep in injury time when James Doyle struck a twenty-meter free in the back of the net to just leave two points between the teams. Kerry were now ahead 0-18 to 1-13 and there would be late drama as Jon Nolan, who was bearing down on goal, felt that he was fouled, which would have given Carlow a chance of a late free to try and win the game but the referee didn’t agree with the Carlow wing forward and blew the full-time whistle.
There were a lot of positives for Carlow – they played really well throughout and they showed great character in playing the game with 14 and then 13 on the field. The changes made for the game certainly had an impact on the team though the positives aren’t without negatives. Discipline still needs to be watched and improvements can be made in relation to giving up opposition frees in scoring areas.
A break from competitive action will be welcome this week to refocus and get set for the visit of Down to Netwatch Cullen Park on 26 February.