Carlow made a bright start and were 0-4 to 0-1 in front before conceding an equalising goal in the 14th minute from Dublin’s Adam Caul.
The home side, with Seamus Kinsella prominent in attack, went on to lead 0-10 to 1-5 at half-time.
The students shot seven unanswered points at the start of the second half however and it took Carlow 22 second-half minutes to register a score, that from right full-forward Paul Broderick.
Scorers for Athlone IT: C Shine 0-8 (7f), A Caul 1-1, K Martin 0-3, A Coffey 0-2, T Mooney 0-1.
Scorers for Carlow: P Broderick 0-5 (3f), S Kinsella 0-4 (3f), J Lowry 0-2, B Murphy, D St Ledger (f) 0-1 each.
ATHLONE IT: G Connaughton; E Kearns, J Cassidy, J Donoghue; L Murphy, C O’Brien, T Mooney; C Duggan, C Shine; A Caul, K Martin, S Quinn; C Fitzgerald, J Dolan, A Coffey.
Subs: J Mulligan for Fitzgerald (52); P McGahern for O’Brien (57); A Stone for Caul (61); D O’Reilly for Quinn (68).
CARLOW: A O’Brien; B J Molloy, M Curry, J O’Donoghue; B Kavanagh, D Kinsella, J Lowry; H Gahan, D Bambrick; S Doyle, B Murphy, J Kane; P Broderick, D Foley, S Kinsella.
Subs: G Power for O’Donoghue (injured) (39); D St Ledger for Bambrick (45); K Nolan for D Kinsella (47).
Referee: B Cawley (Kildare).