The campaign to raise awareness about suicide is a very worthy one but it was a serious business on the pitch too.
Carlow were heavily favoured to progress, having spent a season in Division 1B of the league with the likes of Dublin, Limerick, Wexford and Offaly, while London’s opposition in Division 2B – two tiers lower – was made up of Christy Ring and Nicky Rackard Cup teams. Their isolation makes organising meaningful challenge matches impossible and so, anything other than a home win would have been a shock.
“We’re more used to the pace of the game, playing Wexford and Limerick and those teams” said Carlow manager, John Meyler.
“And you can see that. That’s what I’m saying all along. You need to be playing at that higher level to prepare for the higher championship and we need to be at that level.”
Meyler’s men always held the upper hand but they couldn’t shake off the dogged visitors and only four points separated the sides after substitute Luke Hands’ 60th minute goal.
Crucially though, another sub Craig Doyle responded with his second goal less than a minute later, and though Jack Kavanagh deservedly received his marching orders late on for a wild pull that merited a second yellow, Doyle completed his hat-trick on the stroke of full-time. The Erin’s Own man had a huge influence on proceedings after his 22nd minute introduction, finishing with 3-2 and also acting as provider for Seán Murphy’s first-half goal. His body language indicated he wasn’t the happiest camper in the world, however.
“He came on and scored three goals but this is not about 15 players, this is about 31 or 32 players and everybody has to give their bit” said Meyler afterwards.
“Des Shaw wasn’t too happy either (about not starting) but he came in for the last 25 minutes and made a huge difference. Obviously we were sharper and fitter than London and for the last 10 minutes got a couple of goals that might have put a bit of a gloss on the scoreboard but in the first half we hit 10 wides… wides in front of goal which we should have put over.
Carlow were nervous today. I could sense that within the dressing room before the game. They were nervous because they hadn’t won a championship match before and London were coming over with nothing to lose. So the pressure was on Carlow to perform.”
They led 1-7 to 0-5 at the end of a poor opening period but the tempo picked up considerably in the second half. Doyle’s 43rd minute goal was followed by points from Marty Kavanagh, Murphy and Doyle to open up a 10-point gap but the excellent Spancil Hill native, Martin Duggan hit back with a London major before Hands made things really exciting with his strike.
The hosts finished strongest though and look forward now to a joust with Laois with a Leinster semi-final spot up for grabs.
Scorers for Carlow: C Doyle 3-2; M Kavanagh 0-7(5fs, 1 pen); S Murphy 1-3; J Kavanagh 0-2; E Coady, S Kavanagh, R Coady 0-1
Scorers for London: M Duggan 1-4; G Hennelly (3fs, 1 65), S Lambert (fs) 0-4 each; L Hands 1-0; D Reale 0-1
CARLOW: F Foley; A Corcoran, E Nolan, HP O’Byrne; D Byrne, D English, J O’Hara; R coady, J Kavanagh; S Murphy, S Kavanagh, E Coady; JM Nolan, M Kavanagh, P Coady.
Subs: C Doyle for JM Nolan (22); D Shaw for O’Hara (42); D Shaw for P Coady (55); A Gaule for E Coady (70+1)
LONDON: D Russell; B Healy, B Costelloe, D Healy; D Maher, B Regan, J Walsh; H Vaughan, PJ Rowe; M Duggan, J Egan, T Dunne; G Hennelly, S Lambert, D Reale.
Subs: J Maher for Vaughan (24); S Frawley for Egan (49); L Hands for Hennelly (53); C McAlinden for Maher (56)
Referee: J Sexton (Cork).