Carlow were on a mission in the wake of the Meath debacle and the Déise found themselves on the wrong end of a backlash. Carlow were clearly the better side and would not have been flattered by a much larger margin of victory.
Showing admirable spirit, commitment and plenty of football ability, the outcome was a vindication for Carlow manager Anthony Rainbow.
The former Kildare star — opposed by fellow county man Niall Carew, Waterford team boss — was loud in his praise of his charges.
“It is really hard to pick out individuals. Willie Minchin came on and worked very hard — Jack Kennedy scored a point. Everybody made a contribution,” said Rainbow.
“I don’t think you will get a better game this weekend than we have seen here. I am happy with the win — this group of players deserve it. This Carlow team is not far off the finished product.”
The Barrowsiders hit the woodwork four times in the first half, their only reward from these close calls coming when Seamus Kinsella’s injury-time free hit the post and went over the bar. It appeared as if the football gods were at odds with Rainbow’s men.
Waterford depended greatly on their strong spine but were fortunate to lead 1-6 to 0-6 at the interval.
It was danger man Liam O’Lionáin who pounced on over-indulgent passing in the Carlow defence to race inside and crash home the game’s only goal on 34 minutes. Carlow had enjoyed most of the possession but a lack of belief close to goal led to a meagre scoring return.
The game resumed after half-time under new referee Pádraig O’Sullivan, after Cormac Reilly of Meath was unable to continue.
Carlow hit the front for the first time when full-forward Seamus Kinsella converted a close free on 52 minutes. Wing-back Kieran Nolan quickly doubled that advantage.
Waterford regained the initiative to level with a brace of points from Paul Whyte before substitute Jack Kennedy, only minutes on the pitch, pointed his Carlow in front. Centre back Daniel St Ledger landed a magnificent 50m free. Waterford could only muster a point in reply.
Carlow finished with 14 men when the industrious Willie Minchin received a yellow card followed by a black. Ciarán Moran and Darragh Foley also fell victim to late black cards.
Niall Carew said he will now think about his future “over the next few days” adding he would “give it a week” before making a decision.
“Carlow deserved the victory. They seemed to have the hunger. They were hurting from the Meath game,” he added.
Carew had an issue with the injury-time allowed at the game’s end. The word from the sideline was for Paul Whyte to go for a goal from a late free, with Carlow two points clear, but after the referee indicated there was going to be another play a point had been taken.
“He never gave a second play [though],” said Carew.
Scorers for Carlow: D St Ledger 0-4 (3f, 1 45), C Coughlan (1f), S Kinsella (2f) 0-3 each, B Kavanagh (0-2), E Ruth, M Meaney, D Foley, K Nolan, J Kennedy (0-1 each).
Scorers for Waterford: P Whyte 0-8 (5f), L Ó Lionáin 1-2, S Briggs 0-2, T Prendergast 0-1.
CARLOW: A O’Brien; R Mahon, C Lawlor , B J Molloy; K Nolan, D St Ledger, B Kavanagh; E Ruth, H Gahan; M Meaney, C Moran, D Bambrick; D Foley, S Kinsella, C Coughlan.
Subs: W Minchin for Gahan (inj, 28), G Power for Mahon (43), J Kennedy for Moran (bc, 65), J Lowry for Kavanagh (68), M Ware for Foley (bc, 70).
WATERFORD: S Enright; D Crowley, T O’Gorman, M O’Gorman; W Hutchinson, S Briggs, O Keevers; S Aherne, T Prendergast; D Grey, L Ó Lionáin, T O Huallacháin; B Wall, P Whyte, J J Hutchinson.
Subs: M Curry for Grey (43), D Allen for Wall (45), C O’Keeffe for W Hutchinson (53), N Walsh for Briggs (68).
Referees: C Reilly (Meath) replaced at half-time by P O’Sullivan (Kerry).