There were screams, smiles, tears of joy and every manner of emotion squeezed into physical expression at the final whistle following Saturday’s Joe McDonagh Cup final between Carlow and Offaly.
In a championship decider that will go down in the history books, the game brought everything – daylight leads, fightbacks, red cards, clutch scores and all the drama that comes with a big occasion like it.
For one player, it was the realisation of a long-held hope.
“Carlow captain Paul Doyle probably held the biggest smile of all, making the trip up the steps of the Hogan Stand to claim the Joe McDonagh Cup for Carlow – their first since the inaugural 2018 win – and with it a place in the Leinster senior hurling championship for 2024, whatever about the All-Ireland series preliminary quarter-finals that are still to come.”
“It was great”, Doyle told Scoreline of the win. “That’s the stuff of childhood dreams, you know. As a young lad when you’re starting off, you’d be looking at these All-Ireland finals and thinking ‘great’ if you could get up those steps in Croker, up the Hogan Stand, but to realise that dream becoming a reality is massive.”
“Coming up to the end of normal time, Offaly came back and came back and came back. It was neck and neck, making it very difficult on us and they ended up getting the leveller. But the way we responded to that, came back out to that first half of extra time was brilliant. The belief in the players, I don’t think in previous years that would have happened.”
“This year there’s a real spirit in the group, a belief that we can get over the line in these big games. The crowd (on Saturday) was unbelievable. To be able to look around, see all the people there you know, the people from school. We’re looking forward to it now in three weeks’ time (against Dublin) and we’re going to have to knuckle down again.”
Carlow will face Dublin in the preliminary quarter-final stages of this year’s All-Ireland senior hurling championship at Netwatch Cullen Park, likely on Saturday 17 June.