Ahead of Tough league opener away to Down, Tom Mullaley and his band of men had a chance to grab some silverware in the form of the Kehoe Cup. Standing in his way was Joe Fortune and his Westmeath side.
Westmeath were searching for their 9th Kehow Cup, while Carlow last won the crown, for the sixth time in 2006.
Facing the Sugar factory end in opening half Carlow came out with alot of changes from initial team announced. John Doyle, Brian Treacy and Chris Nolan were some names that stood out, with Marty Kavanagh dropping to the bench.
There was a tense opening exchange as uncharacteristically Brian Treacy fumbled in the goal mouth. Despite the initial scare, the ball was eventually recovered well. Down the other end just inside Westmeath’s 65, Chris Nolan registered Carlow’s first wide from a tight free. Seven minutes in we were still waiting for our first score following a scrappy start.
First blood went to Westmeath with Kevin Regan striking over the bar, which was immediately followed by Conor Foley putting the ball wide for the Barrowsiders, registering their third wide. By the end of the ten minutes Carlow would rue their chances.
Brian Treacy was once again caught, showing a bit of rust, by taking to much out of the ball. Very unlike the shotstopper, but ultimately it did not result in any lost points once again. However both forward lines were doing enough contribute to lost points, with 9 wides registered in the opening 10 minutes.
Westmeath doubled their lead as Shane McGovern picked up a breaking ball in the half forward line and sending it over the bar. This was followed by Naomh Eoin’s John Michael Nolan taking the ball down very cleanly to draw in the foul. Chris Nolan stood over the ball about 20 metres from the sideline, facing the blank scoreboard for Carlow which he rectified by taking the free. Just outside the 45, Westmeath grabbed the next point with Jack Gillen making it 0-03 to 0-01 after 18 minutes.
After 23 minutes Westmeath separated themselves by three points which was followed by a 55 metre free from Jack Gillen to shine even more daylight between the two sides.
The half back line was proving to be very dominate for Westmeath, impressively reducing Carlow to just one score in 25 minutes, something that Carlow needed to rectify before the half time whistle.
Chris Nolan took it upon himself, running at the Westmeath defence, with four people to beat, drawing the free. Standing 23 metres out, even our own Oisin Langan commented he could of scored. Nolan tapped it over, with some thoughts he may go for a goal. Taking his point, he helped reduce the deficit. Carlow starting winning some dirty ball soon after.
Just before half time, both sides scored a point a piece, with the home side leading in wides. The last shot of the half was Jack Gillen breaking away with his fourth point of the day, as the men walked down the tunnel it was Carlow 0-04 Westmeath 0-07. Did the wind play a role in Carlow’s lacklustre display? Well only the second half will tell.
Listening to the wind of change
They was alot of change for the second half. Carlow changed sides, now with the wind behind their backs and rang in many changes on the pitch. Ciaran Abbey was in for Brian Treacy and Marty Kavanagh also was brought . In true Marty Kavanagh style, a minute in, he grabbed the first score of the half. Killian Doyle replied immediately, with a sweet strike against the breeze from about 60 metres out. It was a blistering first few moment of the second half, as it included Westmeath hitting two wides in opening exhanges.
The Carlow defence put their bodies on the line to stop a goal chance by not allowing a clean strike. It was brave play that resulted in a free out for Carlow. The positive sentiment did not last for long though as Jack Gillen received a great ball from Killian Doyle. Gillen was pulled back and it was deemed a penalty. Jack Gillen picked out bottom left hand corner with Kieran Abbey having no chance at saving it. it was Westmeath 1-08 to Carlows 0-04 after just five minutes in the second half.
Marty Kavanagh stayed battling & won a free just inside the 45, he seemed to be in a bit of trouble after the foul but the St. Mullins man stood up when it counted. He shook off the blow and popped the free over to make it a 6 point game.
Joey Boyle made it 1-09 for Joe Fortunes men after Carlow called for a foul believing the ball was picked up off the ground, fortune was evidently on their side. (Delighted with that one). Marty converted another free to stop the game from slipping away, Carlow really need to start getting consecutive point, Marty knew that also by putting over a 65 to try swing momentum in the way the wind was blowing, towards the Westmeath goalkeeper.
Westmeath were keen to stop any form of consistency with Joey Boyle, thinking he missed, actually scored a beautiful point. It was double digits on the points board now for Westmeath, and soon after it was legs eleven after consecutive points. They made it a triple header from a narrow angle after some great teamwork , Kevin Regan grabbed arguably the score of the game. Soon enough
Kevin McDonald was the next to score for Carlow but alot of time has passed since their last point. In that time they conceded four, and immediately after that point Kevin Regan said to himself anything that Kevin can do, I can do better, making 1-14 to 0-08. Marty Kavanagh continuted to do himself justice putting over another score for himself, but it was too little to late, the game was well out of reach even with five minutes in the half left.
Sean Murphy from Ballinkillen finally got Carlow into double digits followed by young Scott Treacy acquited himself well. He put the number 11 on the scoreboard for Carlow at Netwatch Cullen Park, before Marty Kavanagh finished off the scoring for the day. The Westmeath half back-line were just so dominant , never allow any attacking threats to really get off the ground. The game finished Westmeath 1-14 Carlow 12 points.
All in all it was disappointing result rounding off a disappointing weekend for Intercounty Carlow GAA action all in all. No doubt the footballers will be more annoyed with their result against London as it was the league. It was a good run out though, alot of changes in the side, and some positives to take away overall ahead of a tough trip to Buncrana on the horizon in the Division 2 opener.