Tom Mullally, Carlow Senior Hurling Manager
It was a case of what might have been for the Carlow hurlers in 2022 as they narrowly missed out on a place in the Joe McDonagh Cup final.
Tom Mullally’s side eventually finished third in the table, something that the Carlow manager described as “regretful.”
Here, we take a look at the wins and losses that defined their year.
Round 1 – Meath 0-17 to 4-30 Carlow ( Páirc Tailteann, April 16th)
It was the perfect start for the Barrowsiders as they took on the perceived weakest side in the competition on the opening weekend.
While it was no gimme, it afforded them a wonderful opportunity to get some points on the board from the outset.
Mullally’s men were not in a charitable mood as they put the hosts to the sword in Páirc Tailteann.
Goals from Chris Nolan, Conor Kehoe, Marty Kavanagh and Sean Murphy secured a comfortable win as they went top of the table on scoring difference.
There were to be tougher tests ahead, however.
Round 2 – Carlow 0-15 to 3-21 Kerry (Netwatch Cullen Park, April 23rd)
It was this performance that left a sour taste in the mouth for hurling supporters in the county.
In a tight first half, Carlow only trailed by 0-07 to 0-08 at the interval and were in prime position to take a big step towards the final.
However, they failed to turn up in the second half as the Kingdom blitzed them to the shock of the home supporters.
Padraig Boyle, Shane Conway and Niall Mulcahy all found the back of Brian Tracey’s net with Carlow falling to a frustrating defeat in front of their own fans.
It was ultimately a result that would prove very costly as Kerry significantly improved their scoring difference and their points total.
Round 3 – Antrim 2-22 to 1-22 Carlow (Corrigan Park, April 30th)
A much-improved display was not enough for the Barrowsiders when they travelled north on the last day of April.
It looked as though they would come away with a surprise victory with less than 10 minutes remaining as points from Chris Nolan, Richard Coady and John Michael Nolan gave them a two-point advanatage.
However, earlier goals from Ciaran Clarke and Neil McManus proved vital as the Saffrons regained their composure to notch on late scores and claim victory.
The 2018 winners knew there was no more room for error if they were to return to Croke Park.
Round 4 – Carlow 2-25 to 1-19 Down (Netwatch Cullen Park, May 14th)
Needing a victory to keep any hopes of qualification alive, Carlow turned on the style upon their return to Netwatch Cullen Park.
Leading by 0-15 to 0-07 at half-time, a Jack Kavanagh red card saw the hosts lead by only four points and down to 14-men with the game drawing towards it conclusion.
Their nerves were eradicated in the final moments as two quickfire goals from Marty Kavanagh and Conor Kehoe sealed a second win of the campaign and set up a grandstand climax against Offaly.
Round 5 – Offaly 0-17 to 0-22 Carlow (Bord na Móna O’Connor Park, May 21st)
Carlow knew exactly what they needed when they travelled to Tullamore in the summer.
Victory against Michael Fennelly’s side coupled with Kerry’s failure to beat Antrim would see them finish second.
A win for Kerry would see them qualify for the decider due to their superior scoring difference.
Offaly knew a draw against their Leinster rivals would see them make the final.
Fine performances by Chris Nolan (0-07 from play) , Kevin McDonald (0-04 from play) and Conor Kehoe (0-03 from play) inspired Carlow to victory.
However, it wasn’t enough to make the final as Kerry got the better of Antrim to pip the Barrowsiders to second place.
While it was not the end to the season that they would have wanted, Carlow can look forward to 2023 in the knowledge that success in the Joe McDonagh Cup is a realistic prospect.
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