CARLOW 5-23 KILDARE 0-19
We should have known from the tone of the public address announcer that the home side were going to take no prisoners. A vehicle was causing an obstruction and the owner was left in little doubt as to the seriousness of the offence.
“You’d want to shift it. Or we’ll shift it for you,” announced our fella.
Unfortunately for a shell-shocked Kildare side, Tom Mullally’s Carlow tapped into a similar uncompromising mood as they ambushed the Division 2A league finalists with an astonishing nineteen points win in the opening round of the Joe McDonagh Cup at Netwatch Cullen Park on Saturday afternoon.
Most Kildare folk would have approached this game with a certain amount of trepidation, despite hammering the locals by fourteen points in the league not that long ago. But we knew Carlow had regrouped and been boosted by the return of some stalwarts.
We knew too that Mullally’s side had three clear weeks to prepare for this whereas Kildare were coming into it six days after an energy-sapping, confidence-draining League final.
But to suffer a five-goal, nineteen-point defeat after the upwardly mobile spring David Herity’s side have experienced? That was a scenario that would have jolted you awake from your worst nightmare.
What’s indisputable is that Carlow were superbly prepared by Mullally, who as Naas manager knows the Kildare panel backwards. The home side were faster, sharper, and more physically imposing against a relatively young Kildare side who only have a week now to recover before facing into a third meeting with Offaly in the space of six weeks.
From the start Carlow were biting into tackles, surrounding Kildare men, forcing mistakes. Even when they weren’t in Kildare faces, dropped balls, poor passes and bad decisions were the order of the day. Short puck-outs invariably ended with the Lilywhites in bother, as Carlow pressed hard on off-key defenders attempting to hand-pass their way into the teeth of the wind.
When long balls did rain into the Kildare attack, Carlow attacked the ball magnificently, and always seemed to have an extra man. Indeed, such was their greater energy, they seemed to have greater numbers in all sectors.
And yet, Kildare might have had the perfect start when Gerry Keegan sent Brian Byrne haring through on goal in the opening minute. But his shot was easily batted away by home goalkeeper Brian Tracey.
By the tenth minute, the game was already slipping away from Herity’s men, with Carlow’s full-forward Paddy Boland twice benefitting from mistakes in the visitors’ defence to fire goals past Paddy McKenna. The first saw him Niall Ó Muineacháin’s pass intercepted and despite falling to his knees Boland managed to prod it past the Clane goalie.
For the second, Conan Boran failed to collect a high ball in front of the posts and Boland reacted quickest to sweep a shot past McKenna.
With Kildare only registering a point from David Qualter in a nightmare opening nineteen minutes Carlow disappeared into the distance with seven points in as many minutes taking them 2-9 to 0-1 ahead.
Two further goals before half-time for a Carlow side playing with a very strong wind effectively finished the game as a contest.
Again, Kildare’s defence failed to deal with a high ball and when it broke behind them to Boland and the St Mullins man was celebrating a 26-minute hat-trick after burying his shot to McKenna’s right.
Just two minutes later the excellent Martin Kavanagh skipped around John McKeon, headed directly for goal, and passed out to Conor Kehoe who lashed home the fourth goal from a tight angle.
Kildare reached the sanctuary of the dressing room behind by twenty points, 4-13 to 0-5. They brought in Declan Flaherty and Jack Travers during the break, but the game was as good as over by then.
With the aid of the wind, they can at least say they held their own in the second half, with James Burke in particular keeping the scoreboard ticking over from frees but Kehoe’s second goal, after James Doyle had intercepted a pass out of defence in the 47th minute, meant it would be a long final quarter for the men in white.
The day didn’t even get better for them when Burke was hauled down for a penalty in the 53rd minute, resulting in a black card for Kevin McDonald, with goalkeeper McKenna driving wide to the left of the post.
Kildare will need a huge turnaround in form now against Offaly, scheduled for Hawkfield next Sunday (2pm); the Faithful having carried their league form into the competition with an impressive opening round win over Laois today.
KILDARE: Paddy McKenna; Niall Ó Muineacháin, Simon Leacy, John McKeon; Paul Dolan, Rian Boran, Conan Boran; Johnny Byrne 0-1, Cathal McCabe 0-2; James Burke 0-10 (10fs), Gerry Keegan 0-1, Cian Boran 0-1; Brian Byrne, David Qualter 0-2, Cathal Dowling 0-1. Subs: Jack Travers for McKeon HT, Declan Flaherty for Dolan HT, Mark Delaney 0-1 for B Byrne 52, Sean Christianseen for Qualter 56, Cian Shanahan for Cian Boran 67.
CARLOW: Brian Tracey; Paul Doyle, Conor Lawlor, JP Tracey; Fiachra Fitzpatrick, Diarmuid Byrne 0-1, Jack McCullagh; James Doyle 0-4 (1f), Kevin McDonald; Jon Nolan 0-1, Martin Kavanagh 0-12 (9fs, 1’65), Conor Kehoe 2-2; Jack Kavanagh, Paddy Boland 3-0, Chris Nolan 0-3 (1f). Subs: Jack Tracey for Jon Nolan (20-HT), John Michael Nolan for JP Tracey 54, Niall Bolger for Lawlor 61, Jack Tracey for Boland 66, Fiach O’Toole for J Nolan 69.
REFEREE: Colum Cunning (Antrim), replaced at half-time by Caymon Flynn (Westmeath)