Their best performance and result of 2022 was not enough for the Carlow senior hurlers to qualify for the Joe McDonagh Cup final as a Kerry defeat of Antrim saw the Kingdom advance to the decider despite the 2018 champions’ victory against Offaly on Saturday afternoon.
Carlow got off to a bright start with Kevin McDonald and Chris Nolan with fine scores from play either side of a first successful free of the day for Marty Kavanagh.
Three Eoghan Cahill frees and a Killian Sampson effort were all Offaly could conjure up in the first fifteen minutes of a fiercely contested affair as Carlow managed to get to grips with the pace of the game in a better manner than the home side.
Originally named on the bench, Mount Leinster Rangers’ Chris Nolan showed his class with two more excellent points and a Conor Kehoe score gave Tom Mullally’s men a 0-04 to 0-06 lead midway through the first half.
A long-range free from Stephen Corcoran halved the deficit for the Christy Ring Cup champions who were surprisingly flat despite the caveat of a Joe McDonagh Cup final place to play for.
Birr’s sole representative Cahill levelled proceedings with his fourth free in a damp O’Connor Park and he followed that up with his opening score from play to move Michael Fennelly’s side into a narrow lead for the first time, Offaly 0-07 to 0-06 Carlow.
The Barrowsiders refused to relinquish their control of the game however, as veteran defender Richie Coady found talisman Marty Kavanagh who provided the perfect response in the form of an equaliser for the travelling outfit.
Paddy Clancy and the in-form Cahill edged the Faithful County ahead once more much to the disappointment of a fired up Carlow backroom team and travelling support.
Standout performers Chris Nolan and Cahill exchanged scores late in the first half to leave the scoreboard reading Offaly 0-10 to 0-08 Carlow at the interval.
Carlow started the second half with serious intent as Richie Coady, Chris Nolan and Conor Kehoe brought the sides level.
To the dismay of the visitors, they could not build on that run as three points from man of the match Cahill nudged them ahead.
A sixth and seventh point from the outstanding Chris Nolan and three consecutive scores from Marty Kavanagh put Carlow ahead for the first time in the second half, Offaly 0-14 to 0-16 Carlow.
David Nally and Kevin McDonald grabbed crucial points for their sides following a lull period in the game and another Kavanagh free saw Carlow pull away for the first time in the game with ten minutes remaining, Offaly 0-15 to 0-18 Carlow.
It was the same due of Kavanagh and McDonald who saw Carlow gain a two-score lead as the game entered the closing exchanges but the hosts refused to concede defeat as Cahill and Sean Murphy left a goal between the sides.
One final combination of scores from Kevin McDonald and Conor Kehoe saw Carlow secure an impressive victory on a scoreline of Offaly 0-17 to 0-22 Carlow.
That victory was to be in vein however, as Kerry defeated Antrim in Corrigan Park by 0-29 to 2-21 to book their place in the final against the Ulster county in a repeat of the 2020 final.