Carlow made a trip to Belfast to take on Antrim to complete the semi-final lineup for the Tailteann Cup.
On Saturday, Down beat Cavan 1-17 to 15 points in their Tailteann Cup quarter-final at Kingspan Breffni Park. They’ll be joined in the last four by Meath who beat Wexford 2-23 to 12 points in Navan and Laois after they beat Limerick 1-14 to 14 points at the TUS Gaelic Grounds.
You could tell the footballers of Carlow were out to prove a point by turning over the ball back in the fence defence, where eventually Colm Hulton found Ross Dunphy who beautifully put it over with his left. Carlow was definitely playing the better football, defending really well, and coping with the Antrim pace in their attack. It was a concern that Carlow were being turned over at certain stages of the pitch, but Niall Carew would definitely be the happier manager. Breeze probably favouring Carlow.
Dominic McEnhill converted a free to get Antrim’s first score in the game after ten minutes to draw the game. It was not long though before the O’Donovan Rossa man put his county ahead, once again from a free. Antrim was undoubtedly using their physicality, forcing fouls from Carlow defenders, and just like that it was another free. McEnhill made it three unanswered points, all from frees, before adding his fourth once again converting after a foul.
Antrim got their first from play, Mick Byrne becoming the first man from Antrim not named Dominic to score. Darragh Foley, Carlow captain and leading scoring helped stopped the rot, making it just a kick of the ball between them. Darragh Foley made consecutive scores after winning the kick out, with the sizable travelling supporters egging on The Barrowsiders. Cathal Hynes though had it back to three points in no time, straight from the kick out, two passes and it went over the black spot.
Darragh Foley from just outside the 20-metre line, put Carlow on four points after Arron Amond’s pace drew a foul from the Northern defence. Next score went Antrim’s way as Paddy McCormick charged down the centre of the pitch, and with himself right in the middle of the posts stuck it over.
Then disaster struck Ruari McCann and put Carlow six points down. A high-dropping ball sent in by Paddy McBride came to McCann, with no defenders attacking it, the foot was stuck out and passed goalkeeper John Furey. There was a nice immediate reply from Ross Dunphy but Dominic McEnhill cancelled that out to once again make it a six-point game. A brilliant point-blank save by Johnny Furey kept Carlow’s heads high before they went into the dressing room at halftime.
Half time: Antrim 1-08 Carlow 0-05
Darragh Foley got the first score of the game, but it was crucial now to stop Antrim from a quickfire response. It was not straight away but still within two minutes, off the boot of captain Peter Healy. The Saffrons kept the pressure up with McCann and Marc Jordon making it another three points for Antrim in a row.
Niall Hickey was the next scorer on the sheet before Ruari McCann got himself on the scoresheet to cancel out the score. Finally, it was back-to-back scores for The Barrowsiders with Conor Crowley & Darragh Foley putting them over. Antrim answered back with a double blow of their own to make it 1-14 to 9 points, before Ross Dunphy made it ten for Niall Carew’s men.
Mick Byrne added another and with that, Antrim started to slow the game down as Carlow started showing a bit more fight after a Conor Crowley point. The wides were really hurting the travelling side with five in the second half adding to the four in the first. With 13 minutes left the lifeline that was needed finally happened when Mikey Bambrick wonderfully struck the ball into the back of the onion net. The game burst into a frantic pace with just ten minutes remaining and four points separating the sides. Eventually both sides went down to 14 men after the referee dished out two black cards.
Each side traded scores before Antrim hit a hat trick of points including one from Dominic McEnhill making his tenth score of the game. All looked to be said and done until Carlow hit a purple patch with Darragh Foley bursting over three frees. Ultimately when the final whistle was blown it was Carlow who were knocked out of the Tailteann Cup after a valiant effort in the second half.
Full time: Antrim 1-19 Carlow 1-15