The anticipation was high for this one, with Netwatch Cullen Park playing host to the All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship preliminary quarter-final match-up of the Joe McDonagh Cup champions, Carow and Leinster thirds team Dublin.
Chris O’Leary drew first blood for Dublin after Carlow was dispossessed in the middle of the park. It did not take long for Marty Kavanagh to erupt the crowd by popping over a free in the rain. Next up was Chris Nolan, the man that got the winner in the Joe Mac final, who gladly accepted the ball from Fiachra Fitzpatrick to put Carlow ahead. It was dogged stuff with Tom Mullally’s men turning over quite a bit of ball early on. For all their hard work though, it was Donal Burke who drew the game with a free of his own.
Jack McCullough gave away his second free in five minutes, with the pace of the Dublin forwards causing problems. It was evident that Donal Burke was not going to miss from around the ’65 line. Richie Coady drew a foul himself to allow Marty Kavanagh to match Burkes’s score, with it now clear set pieces were going to play a crucial role in this game. When this happens you need a man with ice in his veins, and Carlow was in good hands with Marty Kavanagh, who put his county ahead again.
The Barrowsiders went two points ahead thanks to Jon Michael Nolan before Danny Sutcliffe pointed for Dublin. It was back-to-back frees with Marty making it 4 from 4 before Jack McCullough attacked the man and ball, giving away his third free of the game and another point from a free thanks to Donal Burke. It was not long until we were all level, with Danny Sutcliffe making it 6 points a piece from distance after 20 minutes. Both sides were even on the wides at this moment before uncharacteristically Kavanagh failed to put Carlow ahead by missing a free.
By contrast, Dublin went ahead for the first time in twenty minutes, after a foul was drawn on captain Paul Doyle allowing Donal Burke his fourth point. Marty made up for his previous missed dead ball with back-to-back frees and with that one Carlow was back in the lead. The work rate of the likes of Kavanagh and Paddy Boland was forcing the turnover, frustrating Michael Donoghue’s side. The Carlow crowd was on their feet a few moments later as we head towards the half-hour mark two points ahead again with thanks to Richard Coady. The crowd was on their feet again though, this time striking the ire of the Netwatch Crowd after a controversial score was awarded to Chris O’Leary. It was thought that the score would not go on the board after Wexford referee James Owens went over to the umpire, however, this resulted in Diarmuid Byrne receiving a card.
The closing stages were frantic, Dónal Burke leveled with a free, James Doyle put Carlow ahead again, Chris Nolan hit the post, before a good score from Darragh Power to draw the game. Mark Grogan got them ahead before it was once again level. Donal Burke put the Capital city but Marty Kavanagh was having none of it with a wonderful score from distance. It had to be Marty though to put the Joe McDonagh champions ahead by putting it over the black spot. At the half-time whistle, in front of a home crowd applauding their county hurling team who ran into the dressing room.
Half-time: Carlow 0:13 Dublin 0:12
You’d go a long way to hear an atmosphere like this. The younger members of the crowd are now on the pitch. Could they be about to watch their team claim a historic victory? Find out on @kclr96fm. pic.twitter.com/DMM2iuivTW
Just like the first half Dublin got the opening score with a huge point from Conor Burke. With Burke shooting for distance, and the wind behind him, it may be a tactical choice from Donoghue to shoot from a distance. Dónal Burke tapped over a free and right after Carlow lost possession, and Kilmacud Crokes Mark Grogan made it three points unanswered. Marty Kavanagh stopped the rot by grabbing a much-needed score for the home side.
Then disaster hit, Dublin struck the back of the net to put the biggest distance between the two sides the whole game. Mark Grogan’s goal made it four between the teams before Cian O’Sullivan made it five. For the first time in a long time, Chris Nolan got another much-needed score, with Carlow desperately needing to claw back the scoreline for the chance to face Clare in the quarter-final.
Chris O’Leary got himself another point, however, Dublin started racking up the wides allowing The Barrowsiders to hit two points and make it a one-score game. Marty, unfortunately for him, missed a free, with another free chance going begging after Paddy Boland picked a ball out of the sky from a free but was dispossessed. As the clock went against them Paul Crummey got his first of the game to put four points between them with 12 minutes left.
Carlow was living on scraps and one of those came when James Doyle won a free to keep the game interesting. St. Mullins Marty Kavanagh from 45 yards out once again made it a puck of the ball between the teams. Jack McCullough absolutely nailed a ball after to make it 0-19 to 1-18. Fergal Whitley and Cian O’Sullivan though immediately after kept Carlow at a sparring distance with two quickfire points. That man again, Marty Kavanagh edged closer with Fergal Whitely and Conor Burke again breaking the hearts of the home side. Dues have to be paid to the Dublin backline though who were mopping up everything, not allowing the Carlow forwards any space. Donal Burke made it a six-point lead with single-digit minutes left on the clock before Danny Sutcliffe stopped any idea of a comeback with now three scores separating the sides. Both sides traded scores before Cian O’Sullivan bagged another goal for The Dubs. When the full-time whistle was blown it was confirmed, The Dubs have advanced to the quarter-final where they will face Clare.
All in all the Carlow hurlers have brought us on a fantastic journey throughout the campaign and will have the chance for revenge next year in Leinster against Dublin.