By Kevin Regan
On Sunday Carlow Senior Hurlers will play their last game in the Leinster Championship and indeed the Liam McCarthy Cup since they gained promotion from the second tier competition in 2009.
They take on Westmeath who have already topped the Leinster Round Robin Group, while Carlow lost their Liam McCarthy status with defeats to Kerry and Offaly.
The writing has been on the wall for Pat English’s side this season and here are Five reasons why they have been demoted to second tier hurling once again.
1. The Best Players Haven’t Made Themselves Available
We have seen this with the Carlow Senior Football Panel for a number of seasons and this year the same thing occurred with the Senior Hurlers.
In fact, early on in the season Carlow only fielded the bare bones of a team in the Walsh Cup win over Meath, so not only did the best players not become available, but players in general weren’t available.
For different reasons this year we didn’t see Paudie Kehoe, Eddie Byrne, Craig Doyle, Mark Brennan amongst others and in a small county like Carlow we simply can’t afford to be without players of that calibre.
2. Lack Of Progress At Minor Level
Since 2012 Carlow have only won one game in the Leinster Minor Championship, which came with a two point victory over Kildare this year.
And even in 2012 it was Kildare and Westmeath who Carlow defeated, so since then there has been a complete lull with only a select few players making the breakthrough.
In our county, we need at least 3 players making the step up from the minor ranks every year and this hasn’t happened since Marty Kavanagh, Diarmuid Byrne, James Doyle, Dion Wall and Jack Barron graduated from that 2012 side.
Since then, Ger Coady, Kevin McDonald, Michael Malone, Seanie Whelan and Conor Foley are the only other players of note to graduate to the Senior Set Up and Five players in Four years is simply not enough in order to survive at the top tier.
While injuries happen with every team, Carlow have been rather unfortunate with both the amount of knocks picked up by players and with regards to the calibre of players who have missed out because of them.
There isn’t a team in the country that could afford to be without Naomh Eoin duo Shane Kavanagh and Eoin Nolan who had to undergo shoulder and thumb surgery.
Those two guys have been at the heart of the Carlow defence for over a decade and are virtually irreplaceable .
Influential attacker Denis Murphy has also suffered with niggles throughout the campaign, Dion Wall had to undergo knee surgery after showing good early form, while Seanie Whelan and Sean Murphy have also been in the wars.
4. Players Not Looking After Themselves Off The Field
The demands of an Inter-County Hurler or Footballer have never been higher and there is no question about that.
However when you commit to being a senior county player you not only have to dedicate yourself on the field of play, but also away from the pitch in terms of diet, nutrition and looking after your body in general.
While the majority of the panel are extremely dedicated, there are a few players who have not looked after themselves off the pitch and have been out knocking back a few pints at times when they shouldn’t have been.
This is just unacceptable.
5. Poor Performances
When you look at the level of performance shown in both the Kerry and Offaly games, Carlow simply weren’t good enough, particularly when they were on top at the beginning of both those games and indeed the first few minutes of the second half against Offaly.
However, the last quarter against Kerry was the most disappointing as Carlow simply didn’t respond in any way to the challenge laid down to them by the Kingdom.
The Offaly game was a slight improvement but at the end of the day Carlow just weren’t good enough in those two games and therefore they can have no complaints about being relegated.