Carlow claim first ever Joe McDonagh Cup to secure place in Leinster championship

By Paul Keane

Carlow 2-26 - 1-24 Westmeath

A brilliant second-half display eased Carlow to victory in the first ever Joe McDonagh Cup final, securing them a place in next season's Leinster championship.

Colm Bonnar's side trailed approaching half-time at Croke Park but a James Doyle goal ignited them and they burnt off Westmeath easily in the second-half.

Carlow vice-captains Richard Cody, left, and Diarmuid Byrne lift the Joe McDonagh Cup. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Chris Nolan, who hit 1-4 in total, added a second Carlow goal shortly after the restart and there was no stopping the Barrowsiders after that as they streaked to victory.

The five-point margin at the finish flattered Westmeath who pinched a late goal and finished with 14 men following Derek McNicholas' 66th minute dismissal for a second yellow.

Carlow's reward, aside from playing the likes of Galway and Kilkenny next summer, is a preliminary All-Ireland quarter-final date with Limerick next weekend.

And defeated Westmeath still have a game to look forward to also with Wexford their opponents in the other preliminary quarter-final.

It was the teams' fourth competitive meeting this year and was a tense tussle from the off with the neighbouring counties level seven times in the opening half.

Carlow led by 1-12 to 0-13 at the break and took advantage of a huge turning point in the game to do so.

Westmeath had looked all certain to score a goal a minute into injury-time when Aonghus Clarke bore down on goal but he blasted high and over.

Paul Greville of Westmeath is tackled by Chris Nolan. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

From the resulting puck-out Carlow claimed possession and a ball into their full-forward line broke kindly for Doyle to control and volley home.

It meant Carlow led by two at the interval when they looked certain to trail by three.

Westmeath also racked up 10 wides in the half and rued their wasteful shooting.

Michael Ryan's side hit all of those wides in the first 25 minutes and trailed 0-10 to 0-7 at that stage but improved in the run up to half-time.

They outscored Carlow by 0-6 to 0-2 in that period until Doyle, who hit a hat-trick when they beat Westmeath in the group stage, popped up with that goal just before the break.

The strike clearly energised Carlow who restarted with gusto and hit 1-2 without reply to take firm control of proceedings with a 2-14 to 0-13 advantage.

Edward Byrne of Carlow in action against Eoin Price of Westmeath. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

They never looked back after that and maintained a six or seven-point cushion for most of the second-half.

Free-taker Denis Murphy punished indiscipline in the Westmeath defence with 10 converted frees on the afternoon while Nolan and Paul Cody boomed over some eye-catching points from play.

Westmeath lost McNicholas to a 66th-minute dismissal for a second yellow card though clawed back a consolation goal through Niall O'Brien right at the death.

Carlow scorers: D Murphy (0-10, 9 frees, 1 65), C Nolan (1-4), J Doyle (1-1), P Coady (0-4), JM Nolan (0-3), E Byrne (0-2), K McDonald and D Byrne (0-1 each).

Westmeath scorers: A Devine (0-8, 8 frees), E Price (0-6), N O'Brien (1-1), A Clarke (0-3), D McNicholas (1 free) and R Greville (0-2 each), N Mitchell and D Clinton (0-1 each).

Carlow: T Tracey; A Corcoran, P Doyle, M Doyle; K McDonald, D English, R Coady; J Kavanagh, D Byrne; JM Nolan, P Coady, E Byrne; D Murphy, J Doyle, C Nolan.

Subs: R Smithers for D Byrne 66, S Murphy for E Byrne 67, R Kelly for Kavanagh 69, J Murphy P Coady 71, T Joyce for C Nolan 72.

Westmeath: P Carroll; S Power, T Doyle, J Gilligan; L Varley, P Greville, D McNicholas; E Price, R Greville; N Mitchell, J Boyle, A Clarke; N O'Brien, C Doyle, A Devine.

Subs: D Clinton for C Doyle 39, S Clavin for Varley 39, C Boyle for J Boyle 46, B Doyle for Power 62, C Shaw for Mitchell 67.

Referee: C McAllister (Cork).

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