Carlow were agonisingly close to claiming a place in the Joe McDonagh Cup final in Croke Park next month but ultimately fell just short in their Round 4 encounter against Fintan O’Connor’s stylish Kerry outfit.
Kerry started the game the brighter of the two sides and raced into an early 0-04 – 0-02 lead with the help of two points from veteran full-forward Michael Boyle. Carlow responded almost immediately with a goal from centre-forward John Nolan. The Mount Leinster Rangers man reacted quicker than anyone else when a Marty Kavanagh free fell short and the ball dropped to Nolan who made no mistake with the finish.
Further points from Eddie Byrne and a first of the day for Marty Kavanagh pushed Carlow into a three-point lead. The teams exchanged points to leave Carlow 1-06 to 0-06 ahead as referee Cathal McAllister blowed for the first-half water break.
Kerry dominated for the remaining minutes of the half and drew level when centre-forward Daniel Collins got the Kingdom’s first goal of the game. Two frees from Kavanagh kept the Barrowsider’s in the game but Kerry pushed ahead with three unanswered points from Shane Conway (2) and Michael Boyle. It looked as though Carlow would be trailing by two points going into half-time but another goal from Collins just before the interval made it 2-12 to 1-10 at half-time.
Carlow ate into Kerry’s lead early in the second-half with the ever-reliable Marty Kavanagh scoring another free. Chris Nolan (2), John Nolan and Jack Kavanagh points from play cut the gap to three points midway through the second-half.
Two Shane Conway points kept Kerry in the lead, but three Kavanagh frees left the game on a knife-edge at 2-18 to 1-19. Carlow put their never-say-die attitude on display for all to see as they hit six unanswered points to take a two-point lead with five minutes of normal time remaining.
It looked as though Carlow were on their way to next month’s final, but Fintan O’Connor’s team never gave up and talisman Shane Conway hit his seventh point of the game to make it 2-19 to 1-23 as the game entered three minutes of additional time. Kerry proved the stronger of the two sides late on with Shane Nolan pulling the Kingdom level before two long range points from midfielder Michael O’Leary sealed a famous victory for Kerry and in doing so, booked their spot in the final.