Mount Leinster Rangers 0-24
St. Mullins 0-16
They were raging hot favourites to overcome the challenge of St. Mullins in the JJ Kavanagh & Sons Carlow Senior Hurling Championship final and they proved exactly why they are the best yet again as Mount Leinster Rangers have been crowned champions once more.
Conor Phelan’s team have successfully defended their Carlow Senior Hurling Championship with what can only be described as a truly magnificent performance as they swept aside old rivals St. Mullins at Netwatch Cullen Park on Sunday afternoon.
The saying ‘start as you mean to go on’ can be applied to the champions’ performance as they quickly moved into a 0-04 to 0-01 lead thanks to two points each from brothers Chris and Jon Nolan. A solitary Marty Kavanagh point from play opened the scoring for a St. Mullins side who could never get to grips with the intensity and sheer quality that Rangers showcased on Sunday.
To be fair to Niall O’Donnell’s side, not may teams in the country let alone in the county could have lived with Mount Leinster Rangers on this form.
Jon Nolan added another two points and that was backed up by scores from Edward Byrne and Tony Lawlor as Rangers raced ahead.
Two Marty Kavanagh frees and one from Jack Kavanagh looked to have settled the 2019 champions into the game but that good spell was an outlier in a first half that was completely dominated by Conor Phelan’s men.
It was in the second quarter where this game was won and lost. Ahead by 0-07 to 0-04 at the first half water break, Mount Leinster Rangers would go in at the interval with a 10-point lead as they flexed their muscles with an outstanding scoring blitz.
Paidi O Se and Denis Murphy exchanged fine scores but unanswered points from man of the match Jon Nolan (2), Chris Nolan (2), Edward Byrne, Denis Murphy and Kevin McDonald moved them into a 0-15 to 0-05 lead after 20 minutes.
James Doyle pulled a point back for St. Mullins, but Chris Nolan notched on his fifth of the first half and another point from the ever-consistent Murphy gave them a 0-17 to 0-07 lead at half-time.
It was the sixth meeting in the last decade of these two great clubs in the decider, with St. Mullins winning three of the last four but another county championship looked increasingly unlikely as the half went on.
As always they never gave in and got off to the start they needed in the second half as their talisman Marty Kavanagh and Oisin Ryan reduced the deficit to eight points.
Chris Nolan opened the scoring for the champions after the break but two consecutive points from St. Mullins through Kavanagh and Jason O’Neill raised spirits and voices amongst the St. Mullins faithful.
That spell of promising play was short lived, however, as Rangers moved into the ascendancy again with two points from Edward Byrne leaving the scoreboard reading 0-22 to 0-11 as the game entered its final quarter.
A free from Kavanagh, bringing his personal tally to 7 points, and a second for Oisin Ryan were sandwiched between a saved penalty as Diarmuid Byrne missed the opportunity to put the game beyond doubt when his penalty was expertly saved by St. Mullins goalkeeper Kevin Kehoe.
Paidi O Se and Fiachra Fitzpatrick both scored their second points as they exchanged well-taken scores and another Kavanagh free made it an eight-point game as the showpiece event in Carlow hurling drew to a close.
The superb Chris Nolan got his seventh point with a sensational long-range effort and remarkably added to Mount Leinster Rangers’ tally of 0-24 with every single score coming from open play.
In contrast, St. Mullins were too reliant on the free-taking ability of Marty Kavanagh and their failure to get their other forwards into play like their opponent’s proved pivotal in what was expected to be a much closer affair.
For St. Mullins, they must wait until next year to end their wait for yet another county championship title.
Mount Leinster Rangers march on into the Leinster championship where no team will want to go up against a side who have serious provincial pedigree and look to be at the absolute peak of their powers.
A troubling thought for whoever they will face in the future, and a peak that was more than enough to deservedly regain the county championship.