A beautiful day for a game of small ball. Both teams had everything to still play, with today being the day to leave it all on the pitch.
Carlow started frantically, the new look red shorts seem to light a fire under their arse. Not giving Down an inch with only 8 minutes into gone the score was 6-1.
Paul Sheehan made it a four point match. John Michael Nolan registered the first wide of the game allowing Down to settle a small (wee) bit. However he made up for it a minute later seperating the side by five points once again. Mark Fisher registered Downs third point with a beautiful score, starting a bit of a scoring lull in the game. There was a little (wee) bit of luck for Marty Kavanagh who needed the post to bounce the ball over the bar from a 65.
An excellent score from Pierce Og McCrickard kept some pressure on Tom Mullaleys men at 0-09 – 0-05. Immdiatley after, a point scored by Carlow was called back for a foul. It seemed like a controversial decision to call back the play but the ref’s blushes were saved when Marty Kavanagh stood over the sliothar. Between the 45 and 20 yard line the St. Mullins man duly took advantage of the free.
Conor Keogh managed to raise the spirits of the Netwatch Cullen support. Disaster though as silence befell the crowd when the ball ended up in the back of the homesides net, however an illegal handpass ruled out the goal for Down much to the joy of the said support. Down did manage to get the next score, but there was still a nice bit of space between the teams.
Sean Murphy shorted the grip on his stick, getting his third point of the game before Richard Cody, one short of his brothers appearence record for The Barrowsiders, Edward, put one over as we approached halftime.
It was not the last score of the half, no wind in Netwatch allowed Marty Kavanagh to grab his fifth point. Down had a chance to stop the ascendency but Paul Doyle, a collosus in the backline got the ball up to the young Conor Keogh who put it over the bar for a rapturous applause from the home crowd. Another one for Marty rounded out the scoring for the half at 0-15 to 0-07.
Down got back in the game after half time Daithi Sands put hem right binto contention when he found all the space in the world and put it in the back of the onion net. Down then started getting the breaks and taken advantage of Carlows slow second half start, and before we knew it, there was only three points in it. The confidence in the Ulster was very evident.
Marty Kavanagh got the next score though to allow a bit of breathing space and putting the onus on Down to reply. However Mark Fisher managed to half that lead creating a two point game, and it was now most certainly on.
Carlow grabbed back to back scores with the highlight being Richard Cody intercepting a pass, showing fierce fight. He got the ball to Sean Murphy to raise Carlows numbers on the scoreboard and thus the belief amongst the panel. Marty Kavanagh went onto make it 20 points for Carlow, seperating the side by five.
Brian Treacy pulled off a fantastic save to force a 65 which Mark Fisher easily put over. It went back and forth throughout tfor a patch. Jack Kavanagh got his second yellow and recieved his marching orders, reducing Carlow to 14 men. Mark Fisher put the free over the bar and it looked like Carlow were making it hard on themselves
Then boom, it was a double whammy for Down! Conor Keogh looked to have given his side a Joe Mac lifeline, by securing a victory with a goal. If that did not wrap up the game, Marty Kavanagh almost certainly did getting another goal in quick succesion. Tom Mullaley decided to take Marty off who recieved a huge ovation from the stands as he ended his day with 1-13.
It finished 1-19 to 2-15. Michael Fennelleys Offaly now stand in their way, with it all to play for.