It’s the first week of February and that can only mean one thing. The start of the National Leagues.
The O’Byrne Cup has finished after a gruelling three game slog within 7 days and it’s finally time for some real competitive action.
And make no bones about it, Carlow are going all out for promotion from Division 4 this season.
Having spent so long down in the basement, there appears to be something different about them this year.
The encouraging O’Byrne Cup performances sent out positive vibes and had people thinking that maybe this could indeed be the year in which Carlow rises from the bottom tier.
There are many different variables that indicate this sudden enthusiasm.
Turlough O’Brien and his Management Team are as passionate and detailed as any in the country and O’Brien has had no problem delegating with Down’s Steven Poacher coming on board with some revitalised training methods and tactics.
Speaking to KCLR Turlough says they are in a good position to give themselves a chance to gain promotion to Division 3.
“We put a lot of effort in there the past two years. I think we have a stronger panel this year. Preparations have gone very very well and I think we are in a good position before it starts to really make a good go at getting into a position to get promoted. It’s a stronger Division probably than it has been for a long long time now with Westmeath, Limerick, Wexford down from Division 3 in recent years and they are all quality teams. There is no easy game and we are off to a very difficult opener up in Mullingar but the lads are really up for it now and they are looking forward to it”
It’s essential nowadays that players and trainers move with the times and this is most definitely the case this year both tactically, physically and mentally.
In previous years we have seen Carlow fade away out of games in the last 15 minutes or so.
Again this didn’t happen in the O’Byrne Cup. In fact Carlow were pushing on in those three games this year.
You might argue that the League is different intensity and that fair enough, but I wouldn’t think the pace and intensity is a million miles off. After all its only been a couple of weeks since those games.
Another positive sign is the strength in depth of the panel with the majority of players answering the call of duty this year. There is also a wider wingspan of personnel in terms of what clubs they are from with Mount Leinster Rangers, St Andrews, Naomh Eoin all represented which hasn’t been the case in previous years.
The return of the Palatine contingent is also a welcome sign.
In terms of this Sunday’s opener against Westmeath at 2pm in Mulingar, you would have to say that it’s a testing start to the campaign with the opposition having contested the previous two years Leinster Finals.
They themselves have plummeted straight down from Division 1 to Division 4 and obviously haven’t treated the league in the same manner as the championship which most Westmeath fans aren’t happy about.
Will this attitude change this year? I would think it has to. But without hitting championship pace or sharpness, Westmeath are still good enough to progress back to Division 3.
However when you compare that approach to Carlow’s you would have to feel that Turlough’s boys will be that little bit hungrier because it’s a well known fact that Carlow are going all out for promotion this year.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if you stifle John Heslin then you go a long way towards beating Westmeath, but that is a lot easier said than done.
There is obvious quality too in Kieran Martin, Paul Sharry and James Dolan, but Carlow are no mugs either and Brendan Murphy, Daniel St Ledger and Darragh Foley have played for their province after all.
It should be an exciting start to the League and we will have Full Live Commentary of the game at 2pm on our Carlow Frequency this Sunday with thanks to Flynns Carlow Nissan, the home of Nissan in Carlow