Who would have thought after last month’s London massacre, that Carlow would be gearing up for a League Final clash against their arch rivals Westmeath?
There was plenty of demons about after that demoralising defeat to the Exiles, however Pat English’s charges have exorcised them in style after bouncing back to defeat Derry, Antrim and Saturday’s final opponents and high fliers Westmeath.
To be fair, Carlow Hurling could easily have caved in earlier this season with dwindling numbers, reports of unrest and as mentioned above that defeat to London.
However, there are a few factors which have contributed towards the counties revival in the past month.
None more so than the return of St Mullins trio Jack Kavanagh, James Doyle and back to back Carlow hurler of the year Marty Kavanagh.
Jack and James have brought energy and panache to table around midfield, while ‘Mouse’ has picked off some outrageous scores since their return in the facile win over Derry.
Last Sunday also saw real leaders emerge, particularly in the second half after Westmeath had struck for goal just before half time.
One of those was full back Micheál Ryan. The Ballinkillen man has had boots the size of Godzilla to fill after Shane Kavanagh had to go under the knife to repair a lingering shoulder injury.
Yes, Brendan Murtagh caused ‘Dewey’ a few problems in the first half last week, but Ryan hurled like Brian Lohan in the second half, coming out with ball after ball, which stifled the Westmeath stalwart.
Another man to step up to the mark is Captain Seamus Murphy.
The St Mullins man always gets through a power of work, which often goes unaccounted for, but the real hurling purists understand what Murphy brings to the table in terms of work rate, and last week he proved that he too can nail important scores, by giving Carlow the lead approaching injury time.
The big question on Saturday is can Carlow produce a sustained level of high performance like they did in the second half last week for longer than 35 minutes.
If Pat English’s men are to have any chance of lifting the cup then they will need to do so.
After all, despite Carlow’s thundering effort in the second half, the men in maroon still only lost by two points without playing near their best,and had midfielder Gary Greville not reacted after Westmeath were awarded a free to equalise the game then Carlow may not have been in Saturday’s decider.
Down through the years, these sides have had some ding dong battles in both league and championship, none more so than Carlow’s historic Christy Ring final win in 2008 which is also played at Saturday’s venue in O’Connor Park in Tullamore.
The winner of course will still have to play the loser of Kerry or Laois who meet next weekend in order to be promoted to Division 1B for 2017, which in itself a little bit farcical.
There has been very little to seperate the sides in almost all their clashes over the past decade, with the winner rarely prevailing by a margin higher than 3 or 4 points.
You would have to feel that this will be the case on Saturday, but deciding which direction the cup will be going is an entirely different matter.
That can only be decided between the white lines and we will take you every step of the way, with Full Live Commentary on air and online from 4pm.