Carlow Senior Hurlers produced a powerful second half performance to see off high fliers Westmeath at Netwatch Cullen Park on Sunday.
It was a game which Carlow simply had to win in order to fully guarantee them a place in the Division 2A final, which will take place this coming Saturday against the same opposition at 4pm in O’Connor Park Tullamore.
The contest was tit for that all the way through the first half, with Jack Kavanagh and recent Minor graduate Kevin McDonald putting in powerful performances while picking off some important scores along the way.
But when Brendan Murtagh tucked away a goal just before the break- after Jack Barron had saved the initial effort superbly- Westmeath went in 1-9 to 0-8 ahead and this could have led to a capitulation from the home side.
However, Carlow refused to wilt and came out of the dressing rooms with fire in their bellies to produce a performance of the highest calibre when they needed it most.
After the break Marty Kavanagh and James Doyle switched positions and the St Mullins duo were key to Carlow’s success, with Doyle on the mark from placed balls and Kavanagh getting through a power of work around the middle of the park.
Amazingly, Carlow didn’t take the lead in the game until the 58th, when Doyle struck over a fine score from play before adding a free.
Westmeath levelled it up through Cormac Boyle, but Wing Back James O Hara popped up with a cracking score from play which gave Carlow the lead again, but it was short lived with Darragh Egerton equalising again with four minutes remaining.
When games are tight and the stakes are at their highest, it takes real leaders to stand up and be counted.
None more so than captain Seamus Murphy and Marty Kavanagh.
Firstly Diarmuid Byrne switched the play with a cross field ball to Murphy and from a tight angle the St Mullins man gave Carlow the lead with injury time approaching.
Westmeath then had a chance to equalise from a free but midfielder Gary Greville reacted and the referee threw the ball in instead.
Moments later the ball found its way to Marty Kavanagh and from all of 70 yards the two time Carlow Hurler of the year sent over the insurance score which rubber stamped Carlow’s place in next Saturday’s Final.
Carlow: Jack Barron; Ger Coady, Michaél Ryan, Alfie Corcoran; Diarmuid Byrne (0-1), David English, James O’Hara (0-1); James Doyle (0-7,5f), Jack Kavanagh (0-3); Kevin McDonald (0-3), Marty Kavanagh (0-3,1f), Sean Murphy (0-1); John Michael Nolan, Seamus Murphy (0-1), Seanie Whelan.
Subs: Ross Smithers for Whelan (40m), Richard Kelly for Sean Murphy (65m)