Carlow regroup after Offaly fightback to claim Joe McDonagh Cup

Paddy Boland shone in Carlow's Joe McDonagh Cup final win over Offaly
Paddy Boland shone in Carlow's Joe McDonagh Cup final win over Offaly

Joe McDonagh Cup final

Carlow 2-29 Offaly 1-31(after extra-time)

IN keeping with the trend set by Antrim and Kerry a year ago, Carlow and Offaly produced a Joe McDonagh final that will live long in the memory, with Carlow following in the footsteps of the Saffrons thanks to Chris Nolan’s 91st-minute winner.

With the very last play, Offaly had one last chance to force penalties, but Adrian Cleary’s effort from halfway drifted just outside the right hand post for their 25th wide of the game, summing up the difficulties that Offaly had in converting chances all afternoon.

It was an incredible game, where Offaly burst out of the blocks with a goal from U20 team captain Charlie Mitchell, but then found themselves chasing shadows for the remainder of the first half.

Carlow’s ability to play more direct, effective hurling that yielded higher quality chances close to goal put them 2-9 to 1-7 up against 14-man Offaly by half-time, and they still led by six on the hour mark – before an incredible Offaly comeback culminated in Eoghan Cahill pointing in the 73rd minute to force extra-time.

“There were character questions,” said Carlow manager Tom Mullally.

“Momentum had swung Offaly’s way and we had to answer those questions in extra-time, and we just about got there. That was what that contest was going to boil down to today – not disappearing, not hiding, and staying the course for the full game.

“It was a new game, a new competition. Lads can lose sight of that, but we still had two halves to play, so we had to get our heads clear.''

That didn’t look like it would be enough. Offaly opened the scoring through Cillian Kiely to keep their momentum going, and Carlow’s use of just two subs by the 85th minute illustrated their lack of depth.

Only their incredible accuracy kept them in the game, and ultimately it fell to Diarmuid Byrne and Chris Nolan to tack on the points in the closing minutes that turned a one-point deficit into a one-point lead, at the only time where it mattered.

“We haven’t a panel that can compete for the Kehoe Cup, the league, and the Joe Mac. That’s not where we are in the world unfortunately, we’re not at that level” said Mullally.

“This was our target, and the lads had the heart and skill to make it happen.”

In the opening half, it looked like they might win at a canter. Marty Kavanagh led from the front with some excellent route one points, but the real star was Paddy Boland who shot 1-3 in the first half (1-4 in total), and also earned the penalty that led to Kavanagh finding the net and Dara Maher’s straight red for making contact with Boland’s faceguard.

“The red card was not a red card,” fumed Offaly boss Johnny Kelly.

“In my opinion, it wasn’t even a penalty. It was a really great catch on the edge of the square by Paddy Boland. He attempted a strike on goal and the ball broke away, and the referee decides to give a penalty, running in from 60 yards out the field.”

Using their extra man well, the Dolmen county then kept Offaly at arm’s length for most of the second half, as the Faithful men continued to rack up wides.

Meanwhile. at the other end, John Michael Nolan, Kavanagh, Chris Nolan, and in particular James Doyle, were relentlessly accurate.

They couldn’t quite finish it out, however, and once Eoghan Cahill crowned Offaly’s late run with the point to make it 2-22 to 1-25 and force extra-time, it seemed like their game to win.

Carlow had other ideas, as Jon Nolan, Diarmuid Byrne and Chris Nolan kept their nerve and found the target with the scores they needed to get their noses in front when it mattered.

Carlow: B Tracey; P Doyle, C Lawlor, J McCullagh; D Byrne (0-1), K McDonald (0-1f), J Kavanagh (0-2); F Fitzpatrick, J Doyle (0-3); J Nolan (0-3), M Kavanagh (1-8, 1-0 pen, 5f, 1 65), JM Nolan (0-2); C Kehoe (0-2), C Nolan (0-4), P Boland (1-4).

Subs: F O’Toole for JM Nolan (63), R Coady for J Kavanagh (70+2), N Bolger for McDonald (85), J Tracey for J Nolan (88), C Kavanagh for O’Toole (90).

Yellow cards: Boland, Doyle, McCullagh, J Kavanagh

Offaly: S Corcoran; D Maher, B Conneely, C Burke; D King, J Sampson (0-1), K Sampson (0-2); S Bourke (0-1), J Clancy; B Duignan, Cillian Kiely (0-6, 2f), A Cleary (0-3); D Nally (0-5, 1 65, 1 s/l, 1f), E Cahill (0-8, 3f), C Mitchell (1-1).

Subs: E Kelly (0-2) for Bourke (47), P Clancy (0-2) for Duignan (50), S Dooley for Kiely (58), J Keenaghan (0-1) for Nally (67), P Delaney for Keenaghan (full-time), C Kiely (15th man for ET), Keenaghan for Clancy (75), J Murphy for Keenaghan (85).

Red cards: Maher

Referee: T Walsh (Waterford)