Carlow claimed the Joe McDonagh Cup, after an incredible game against Offaly in Croke Park on Saturday.
Offaly got off to a blistering start before goals from Marty Kavanagh and Paddy Boland allowed Carlow to establish a strong lead. Johnny Kellys Offaly’s side was not to be outdone though and pulled back in the second half to drag the game into extra time. The heat played a huge factor with players going down, and Offaly having played the majority of normal time with 14 men.
Many thought momentum may swing with Offaly back to full strength however late Diarmuid Byrne and Chris Nolan secured a famous victory for the Barrowsiders ensuring me “Follow me up to Carlow” blared through the speakers at GAA HQ.
See also: Carlow’s Paul Doyle on climbing the Hogan Stand: “It’s the stuff of childhood dreams”
Speaking after the game, manager Kelly could not hide his disappointment, however, he was quick to pay tribute to The Barrowsiders after the game;
“We are proud, but the first thing to say is a hearty congratulations to Carlow. That was an exceptional game of hurling and it would be remiss of me not to congratulate them on a fabulous victory for their manager and entire team, it was a brilliant game of hurling. We are just disappointed, gutted, to be honest, to come out of this with a one-point loss. It was tough to take.”
“The truth of the matter is, Offaly have been down for five years, and dropped a level below that. This particular bunch of men have worked extremely hard, the sacrifices they have made. The injuries they have taken, and the effect it has on their own private life, it is amazing and humbling to be part of that. We are rightly sick, and it is not easy to lose a game of that quality. You have to take it on the chin, move forward and somehow find a way to get guys back in and motivated to next week because we play in three weeks’ time against the third-best team in Munster.”
The sending off of Dara Maher was also addressed, with Offaly down to 14 men for much of normal time.
“You mentioned the red card, the red card was not a red card. The red card in my opinion was not even a penalty.
It was a really great catch on the edge of the square. Paddy Boland tried to attempt a strike on goal, he was falling at the time, the ball broke away and the referee decides to give a penalty from 60 yards out the field and then send off our corner back. For 35 minutes we battled on and eventually, it was a bridge too far. Having said all that, that was a fabulous Carlow team and I want to wholeheartedly congratulate them.”
See also: Tom Mullally: “If we had to go for a competition, we had to go for the Joe Mac” as Carlow set for 2024 in Leinster senior ranks
Both sides met back-to-back after they clashed in the last round of the cup competition. Carlow also won that bout on the day, but by a much larger margin than one point. Offaly had already qualified but came in for some criticism due to making a number of changes to their starting line-up. With the final up in the air, Laois ultimately managed to miss out on the decider due to Carlow besting the undefeated Offaly in the encounter. Kelly stated that the change-up was out of necessity and not any other reason
“There has been a lot made about the Offaly team over the last couple of weeks and the way we were perceived to have thrown the game but the reality of the matter is we had 10 players injured after the Kerry game. We couldn’t physically take the field with those guys against Carlow the last time out. We knew we had to get as much recovery into those players.”
Listen back to the full interview below on Scoreline Extra: