Fraher Field, Dungarvan
by John Whelan
Carlow staged a dramatic second half comeback, aided by three influential Sean Gannon points to remain unbeaten in the 2015 Allianz National Football League. Post match, manager Turlough O’Brien saw the first half effort as important as Carlow’s second half purple patch. “The workrate was phenomenal, tackling was great” he said as Carlow worked hard to prevent Waterford from scoring more in the first half with the huge wind advantage.
In the early going, Craig Kearney’s kickouts were just about making it to the 45 metre line as a result of the gusting wind. Waterford got off to a good start with Shane Aherne and Michael O’ Halloran both scoring points. Patrick Hurney would put some daylight between the sides when on eight minutes he pushed Waterford’s lead out to three points. Carlow were finding it very difficult to get any ball into the forward line and were not helped when on thirteen minutes the weather took a turn for the worse as the wind picked up even more and the rain began to teem. Everytime Carlow turned upfield they faced headlong into a squally, face numbing barrage of water. They did manage to get more possession and when a ball was sent in towards the Waterford goal mouth Brian Murphy collided with his man and went to ground, referee Derek O’ Mahoney( Tipperary) waved play on much to the dismay of the sizeable travelling Carlow support. Carlow finally opened their scoring on fifteen minutes when Ciaran Moran put the ball over the bar after an impressive run by Mark Fitzgerald.
Turlough O’Brien championed the tackling of his men tonight and it must be mentioned that Carlow didn’t gave away a single free until the sixteenth minute. Knowing how daunting the task of playing into the wind was and how dangerous Waterford are from frees Carlow put in a well disciplined performance when it mattered to keep Waterford in sight. Unfortunately that first free did result in a Shane Aherne point.
Carlow weren’t going to let Waterford get a run on them and as they have done all year they forced a turnover in midfield when Benny Kavanagh intercepted the ball. Kavanagh made another surging run, passed it to Ed Finnegan who on any other day would have scored but the wind stifled his shot and Waterford keeper Stephen Enright was able to just watch it drop into his hands.
Waterford had a very productive final ten minutes of the first half with Aherne converting two more frees and Mark Frencombe getting one from play as half time approached. Darragh O’Brien got Carlow’s second point of the day with one minute remaining to bring Carlow in a half time trailing 0-7 to 0-2.
The strength of the wind meant Carlow were not out of it just yet but that didn’t prevent an uneasy feeling for the Carlow support at half time, Waterford had the wind but managed to amass ten wides in the first half. Carlow knew they had to be more accurate to bridge the five point gap.
Carlow got off to a flying start in the second half when Sean Gannon scored a point after just eighteen seconds to send out a warning sign of Carlow’s intent. Carlow captain Daniel St Ledger is well known for his free taking and 45 kicking but after just ninety seconds of the second half he scored a wonderful point from play just on the 45 metre line. On thirty eight minutes Brian Murphy slotted over a free to bring Carlow back within three points. Waterford then cancelled Murphy’s score out with a Shane Aherne free which was their first score of the half on forty five minutes.
The tackling and defending efforts of the first half did not subside and the full back line of Molloy, Redmond and Nolan were all working tirelessly and helping to win ball. On forty eight minutes there was absolute bedlam in front of the Carlow goal and the fact that they came away with the ball must have had some believing tonight was Carlow’s night. A ball delivered to the Carlow goal mouth bounced around and Kieran Nolan was just one of the Carlow players to put his body on the line to prevent a shot when a goal might have killed off the Carlow comeback.
Aherne added another free on fifty six minutes. It would go on to be Waterford’s last score but at the time it gave Waterford a four point lead. Carlow refused to give up, the tackling continued and they remained calm and patient. Derek Hayden , Eoghan Ruth and John Murphy were all introduced for Carlow to ensure the legs stayed fresh on the very soft sod in Fraher Field.
Carlow hadn’t scored in seventeen minutes, they trailed by four with ten to go but that didn’t faze Brian Murphy when he converted another free. Two minutes later, John Murphy scored a fine point from play. Within sixty seconds Sean Gannon added another wonder score to bring Carlow within one. Waterford just couldn’t hold onto the ball. Brian Murphy got the leveller with four minutes remaining but Carlow could smell blood. Waterford hadn’t had possession of the ball in the opposition half in close to ten minutes. After Carlow won yet another kickout, Sean Gannon got the score that gave Carlow the lead in Fraher Field for the first time.
When Waterford finally did find themselves in the Carlow half they were looking dangerous but they were met once again with a wall of red jerseys and they were forced to kick from distance and high up in the air. The wind caught the ball and in the end it travelled less than twenty metres. From the ensuing clearance, Sean Gannon got the ball again, he was then brought down in the middle of the pitch and referee Derek O’Mahony brandished a black card to send Michael O’ Halloran to the stand.
As normal time expired, Brian Murphy slotted over another free to give Carlow a two point cushion albeit it a dangerous lead. Carlow continued the phenomenal work rate and great tackling to keep Waterford out. Carlow won the ball deep inside their own half, Benny Kavanagh drew the tackle and the referee showed another black card to Waterford, this time to O’Gorman. It killed the clock, Carlow had a chance to calmly work the ball forward and the referee blew the full time whistle to give Carlow a massive win which elicited a roar so big from the Carlow support it quietened the howling wind in Dungarvan. Next up for Carlow is the visit of neighbours Wicklow to Netwatch Cullen Park next Sunday (the 8th of March) for what is sure to be an intriguing game.
Craig Kearney, Barry John Molloy, Shane Redmond, Kieran Nolan, Mark Fitzgerald, Daniel St Ledger, Benny Kavanagh, Sean Gannon, Darragh Foley, Ed Finnegan, Ciaran Moran, David Bambrick, Brian Murphy, Brendan Murphy, Darragh O’ Brien Subs: Hugh Gahan for David Bambrick (43 mins), Derek Hayden for E Finnegan (53 mins), Eoghan Ruth for Darragh Foley (55 mins), John Murphy (0-1) for Ciaran Moran (58 mins), Eric McCormack for Darragh O’Brien (67 mins), Cormac Mullins for Brendan Murphy (69, black card)
Brian Murphy 0-4 (3f)
Sean Gannon 0-3
Daniel St Ledger 0-1
Ciaran Moran 0-1
John Murphy 0-1
Darragh O’Brien 0-1