Carlow are once again Joe McDonagh Cup champions, the first time since becoming inaugural winners of the competition in 2018, after defeating Offaly by one point after extra time in Croke Park on Saturday evening last.
The sun shone down on GAA Headquarters on Saturday evening last as Carlow faced off against Offaly in this year’s Joe McDonagh Cup final. Carlow beat Offaly in last year’s competition but failed to make the final on scoring difference. The teams met a couple of weeks ago in the last round of this year’s competition and with Offaly already into the final, Carlow came away with victory to set up a rematch.
Offaly started the game quicker and within forty seconds of the game getting underway the Faithful had the ball in the back of the Carlow Net, Carlow responded and got the next two points. The teams were level after twenty-one minutes 1-5 to 0-8, Carlow would soon get a green flag of their own, and Paddy Boland jumped highest under the shadow of the Davin Stand to grab the sliotar from the air and dispatch it to the Offaly net, Carlow was now in the lead for the first time. Things got even better for the Carlow men when Boland was brought to the ground, penalty awarded and a red card for Dara Maher for interfering with Paddy Bolans’s faceguard, Marty Kavanagh stepped up and there was no stopping his bullet as he increased the lead for the Barrow men. Carlow went into the break 2-9 to 1-7 and Tom Mullally had to be happy with his team’s performance.
The second half was as intense as the first, Offaly was now fighting with a man down and Carlow was trying to hold onto the lead and bring the Cup back down the M9, both teams were hitting scores blow for blow as Offaly ate away the Carlow lead. Coming down the stretch heading into the final few minutes of the game Carlow were ahead by one point but Eoghan Cahill put a shot over the bar to level things up, sending this year’s Joe McDonagh Cup final would go to extra time.
Another 20 minutes
Offaly struck first in extra time, but Carlow kept plugging away and went into the break a point ahead. This game was going to go down in the history books, both teams were giving it their all, the skill levels, the commitment and determination were immense from both teams. As the second half of extra time was drawing near a close, Offaly found themselves two points ahead.
A long-range score from Diarmuid Byrne helped to level things up and with the referee indicating one additional minute, Byrne was instrumental in Carlow’s winner, grabbing a ball from the sky on his own 13-meter line, finding Chris Nolan in space on the left of the field, who got possession, rounded the defender, shimmied back onto his right side and slotted over a beautiful point to win the game for Carlow. Scenes of joy and jubilation followed as the Barrowsiders celebrated their success.
Speaking to KCLR after the game, a very happy Tom Mullally was asked about his emotions:-
“Those haven’t settled yet, we’re probably fifteen minutes after the final whistle, the game itself was so octane and involved a lot of emotion and those things haven’t settled but for the panel for the pride for the county, there’s a huge amount of pride there, I think they produced an excellent performance over the course over the normal seventy minutes, then there were character questions as momentum swung Offalys way and we had to answer those questions in additional time, I think we just got it across the line. That is the nature of the contest that it was today, it was going to boil down to not disappearing, not going hiding, staying the course over the course of the game and huge credit is due to our own players from coming through that contest against an excellent Offaly side”
“At full-time momentum had swung with Offaly it was just trying to get ourselves to realise it was the start of another game and get that clear as lads can nearly lose sight of that, we had two halves still to play and that was crucial to us that we got our heads clear and to be fair to the group of players that we have they have shown that character all year long, I had no doubts about their ability to meet that”
“To be fair over the course of the Keogh Cup and Joe Mac our panel was belittled a bit and that wasn’t fair, we have had a very honest panel this year that has been driven, some players have come back late, and every player we have on our panel are proud to be a Carlow man, they’re proud of their involvement with the Senior hurling panel and their performances, some days haven’t gone right for us but its a case of building momentum at the right stage of the year”
“We haven’t got the panel to compete for the Keogh Cup, league, and Joe Mac, that’s just not where we are in the world were not at that level, if we had to go for a competition we had to go for the Joe Mac and that’s where everyone head would be clear and that’s what we’d be focused on”
“We have lads on our panel, Ciaran Whelan is injured he couldn’t play but he’s contributed a massive amount to our panel, Tony Lawlor has been there, and we brought on Fiach O’Toole today, and we got Jack Treacy, you go right down to we have Evan Kiely and Diego Dunne, lads who have brought a huge amount over the course of this season, they mightn’t be quiet ready to take the field here but they’re players who will represent Carlow in the future and they’ll be senior players who’ll be hard to be beaten as well”
“Today is brilliant, it’s absolutely fantastic for us, we’d be full of pride at the minute I don’t know where I’m at, I have to get my head settled, all I know is I know we’ve won what we wanted to win and by christ am I happy”