Carlow are champions! A late brace of points from Diarmuid Byrne and Chris Nolan in extra time saw Carlow claim the Joe McDonagh Cup on Saturday evening.
Penalties had loomed as the ball drifted to Chris Nolan in the final minute of extra time. However, He drove in from the left wing and a county erupted as he shot over the winning point after centre half Diarmuid Byrne’s long range effort had levelled matters a minute earlier.
It showed the character of Tom Mullally’s team to dig deep once again in a thrilling final when they had squandered a two-point lead going into injury time of normal time.
Carlow got the worst opening start conceding an opening goal in the first minute but rallied to level the game by the end of the first quarter.
A three-minute window saw Carlow surge to a seven point lead. It started with Paddy Boland shooting a goal close range on 29 minutes followed by a red card for Offaly’s Dara Maher before Marty Kavanagh fired in a penalty. Offaly narrowed the lead before halftime with the scoreboard 2-09, 1-07.
It was a tit for tat in the second half with Carlow keeping Offaly at arm’s reach. At one point, Carlow had extended their lead to six points with close to 10 minutes left on the clock. However, Offaly kept chipping away and Carlow’s wide count began to rise. For so long in the game, Carlow had been impressively efficient but the Barrowsiders only raised the white flag once in the last 12 minutes.
It was two point game entering into stoppage time before Offaly’s Eoghan Cahill levelled matters on 73 minutes. The score at the final whistle of ordinary time was 2-22, 1-25.
At the start of the extra time, Offaly, now restored to 15 players, opened the scoring before the imperious Marty Kavanagh equalised through a free.
Credit to Carlow, they dug deep and a brace of points from Kavanagh and the Nolan brothers saw Carlow lead at one point at the break, 2-26 1-28.
Offaly again struck first upon the resumption of action to tie the game. The sides traded further scores before Offaly edged ahead with three minutes to go. It looked like disaster when man of the match Kavanagh uncharacteristically missed a free with a minute to go but Byrne and Nolan had the final say on a fantastic day for the county.
Carlow: Brian Tracey; Paul Doyle (Captain), Conor Lawler, Jack McCullagh; Fiachra Fitzpatrick, Diarmuid Byrne (0-1), Jack Kavanagh (0-2); Conor Kehoe (0-2), Kevin McDonald (0-1,f); Jon Nolan (0-3), Chris Nolan (0-4), James Doyle (0-3); John Michael Nolan (0-2), Martin Kavanagh (1-8, 1 pen, 65, 4f), Paddy Boland (1-4).
Subs: Fiach O’Toole for JM Nolan (63mins), Richard Coady for J Kavanagh (72m), Jack Tracey for J Nolan (87m), Niall Bolger for K McDonald (85m), Ciaran Kavanagh for F O’Toole (89m).
Unused subs: Damien Jordan, JP Tracey, Michael Joyce, Paudie O’Shea, John Doyle, Lorcan Doyle. Other panel members: Jake Doyle, Diego Dunne, Eric English, Sean Joyce, Evan Kealy, Tony Lawlor, Scott Tracey, Conor Whelan.
Offaly: Stephen Corcoran; Dara Maher, Ciaran Burke, Ben Conneely; David King, Jason Sampson (0-1), Killian Sampson (0-2); Sam Bourke (0-1), David Nally (0-5, sl, 65, f); Cillian Kiely (0-6, 2f), Jack Clancy, Adrian Cleary (0-3); Charlie Mitchell (1-1), Brian Duignan, Eoghan Cahill (0-8).
Subs: Eimhin Kelly (0-2), Paddy Clancy, Shane Dooley, Joey Keenaghan (0-1), Paddy Delaney, John Murphy. Unused subs: Eoghan Parlon, Conor Hardiman, James Nally, Liam Langton, Eamon Cleary.
Referee: Thomas Walsh (Waterford).