Carlow have got off to the perfect start in the Joe McDonagh Cup after a hard-fought victory against Kildare in Newbridge on Saturday afternoon.
Tom Mullally’s side travelled to St. Conleth’s Park without the injured Marty Kavanagh for the encounter after the St. Mullins’ clubman sustained a season ending knee injury during the week.
They seemed to be suffering from missing their talisman early in the game as Kildare raced into an early lead thanks to three Brian Byrne frees and a well-taken point from Declan Flaherty. Chris Nolan and John Michael Nolan responded for the away side in what was a largely uneventful first quarter as the score read 0-05 – 0-02 at the first half water break.
Carlow grew into the game after a sluggish start. In what was a pivotal twenty-minute spell before half time, they went from three points behind to three in front. Full forward Jon Nolan and midfielder Richard Coady pointed either side of a glorious piece of skill from John Michael Nolan as the Naomh Eoin stalwart split the posts from a sideline cut on the Kildare ’45.
Jack Sheridan and David English exchanged long-range frees before Carlow made a strong push that would prove pivotal come the end of the game. Three points from Chris Nolan, who took over the free-taking mantle from Marty Kavanagh, along with another free from English and a James Doyle point made it 0-08 – 0-11 in Carlow’s favour at half time.
The Barrowsider’s continued from where they left off at the start of the second half with two points from corner forward Chris Nolan. Kildare dragged themselves to within a score of their visitors with a Conor Dowling point and a James Burke goal after the Lilywhites forward struck past Brian Treacy. Carlow replied almost immediately afterwards as midfielder Kevin McDonald extended their lead to four points with an goal. However, in what was a incredible phase of play, Callum Smith scored Kildare’s second goal, leaving the socreboard reading 2-10 – 1-14 midway through the second half.
Jon Nolan and Kevin McDonald scored two unanswered points for the 2018 winners before McDonald got his second goal of the game to push Carlow six ahead at the second half water break.
James Burke replied with his second goal of the game and a free from inside his own half from Jack Sheridan cut the deficit to three points, 2-17 – 3-11. Kildare seriously threatened a late comeback as Shane Ryan and corner back Cathal Derivan opened their accounts to make it a one-point game heading into the last ten minutes.
However, it was Carlow who pushed ahead with Mount Leinster Rangers sharp-shooter Chris Nolan getting his seventh and eight points of the game with two further frees. Kevin McDonald got his final score of the game to finish with a personal tally of 2-02 and crucially move Carlow four points ahead at the start of added time, 2-21 – 3-13.
To their credit, David Herity’s men never gave in, and Byrne and Sheridan added further frees to leave the game on a knife-edge. It was not to be for the home side, however, as James Doyle wrapped up an impressive win for Carlow with the final score of the game.
Next up for Carlow is a home tie with Westmeath next Saturday.