Carlow have suffered their first defeat of the season following a 3-20 – 3-18 defeat away to Down on Sunday afternoon.
Carlow got off to the perfect start and looked to be well on their way to victory early on as a Chris Nolan goal followed by five points gave the away side a 1-05 – 0-01 lead.
Both free-takers Paul Sheehan and Marty Kavanagh exchanged scores soon after the early Carlow blitz. Chris Nolan and Pearse Óg McCrickard points left the game at 1-07 – 0-05. That was as good as it got for Tom Mullally’s side as Down took control of the game at the midway point of the first half. Two Sheehan points and another from play from McCrickard reduced the lead to three points, 1-09 – 0 -09.
The first key moment of the game came 20 minutes in as Paul Doyle went to the sin bin for a cynical foul. Conor Woods clinically dispatched the penalty to pull Down level for the first time since the start of the game.
Down used their numerical advantage for the remainder of the first half as Sheehan stepped up with three unanswered points (2f) before half time. Marty Kavanagh tapped over a free just before the half time whistle to leave the game at 1-12 – 1-10 in favour of Down.
Carlow came out of the traps in the second half as points from John Michael Nolan and Marty Kavanagh marked a strong response to an early Chris Egan point for the home side.
The pivotal moment in the game came five minutes into the second period as full forward James Doyle received a straight red card for foul play. It seemed to spark the Carlow into life as they took the lead thanks to a brilliant run from Gary Lawler, who scored two points of his own in Ballycran, and John Michael Nolan who combined for a wonderful goal from the latter, 2-14 – 1-16.
Their joy was to be short lived however, as from the resulting puck out Paul Sheehan gathered possession and ruthlessly fired past Brian Tracey to move Down ahead once again. It was a lead that they would never relinquish.
Further scores from man of the match Sheehan, the impressive half forward McCrickard and Donal Hughes pushed Down five ahead. Carlow refused to give up and star player Marty Kavanagh and the ever-consistent John Michael Nolan left the game on a knife edge with ten minutes left on the clock.
Centre-back Conor Woods somehow found the net from a long range free moving Down five ahead, 3-19 – 2-17. The lead was to prove unassailable for the fourteen men despite a third goal from midfielder Kevin McDonald who rebounded in after a saved Chris Nolan penalty.
They did have the chance to snatch an unlikely victory right at the death, but Bagenalstown Gaels’ Jack McCullagh struck the post with his goal effort as Down won by two points on a scoreline of 3-20 – 3-18.
Listen back to the game on Big Game Live.
Carlow welcome Offaly to Netwatch Cullen Park on Sunday May 23 at 14:00.