O’Brien has overseen a significant upturn in Carlow’s fortunes, building on last year’s positive championship by achieving promotion to Division 3 in the spring.
To continue the upward curve, they needed to beat Louth and such was O’Brien’s delight with this result he joked about being ‘bound for the Super 8s.’
They were full value for the 11-point margin, and while the goals from Diarmuid Walshe and the outstanding Paul Broderick came late on, they were clinical in utilising the space once they had forced Louth to attack with more fervour.
The truth of it however is that hard though they tried, Louth failed to create a goal chance and carried little or no threat in the second half, when they scored only three points.
“The team is motoring well” said a beaming O’Brien. “We’re determined to push on. We’re not happy with getting promotion in the league and we didn’t want to be a one-hit wonder last year. We’re guaranteed more championship football after today.
“The lads worked very hard over the last couple of years and they’re very well versed in how we want to play the game. Everyone knows their role on the team. Players will slot into that system without much change on how the team performs. We weren’t going to panic at any stage and we handled them well.”
John Murphy reprised his customary sweeper role, while the half-forwards tracked back to cut out space when Louth had possession. The numbers and the impressive physique of so many of the players forced the men in red to cough up possession time and again.
Yet Louth gave as good as they got for most of the first half and it was only in the last 10 minutes of the opening period that Carlow began to exert dominance.
Ryan Burns, Gerard McSorley, and William Woods all got on the scoresheet as Louth established a three-point lead.
They got a major let-off when Sean Murphy drove a shot off the crossbar but Carlow finished with three points in the last two minutes of the half, including one of four brilliant scores from play by Broderick in that period to lead by one (0-10 to 0-9) at the break.
“We were confident our first half performance was good. We had 10 points on the board and we had seven wides so we’d dominated the possession stakes in the first half. We had some wild shooting but we addressed that at half time and pushed on. We stuck to our game plan very well, worked our scoring opportunities patiently and we opened them up.”
Goalkeeper Robbie Molloy almost gifted a Woods a goal early in in the second half but before long, Carlow were four ahead, Daniel St Ledger and Broderick hitting frees.
That forced Louth to commit more to their offensive efforts but they could get no change and were punished ruthlessly on the counter.
Walshe’s goal in the 63rd minute was brilliantly worked, initial possession being won as it was often from a long Molloy kickout. From there, Darragh O’Brien and the tireless Eoghan Ruth were involved before Walshe provided the finishing touch.
Five minute later it was all over as Broderick rattled the net with glee.
Burns was sent off in a injury time on a straight card after an off-the-ball incident which will rule him out of the qualifiers.
But then as O’Brien repeated, after being asked about coping without absent midfielder Brendan Murphy, who opted to go to America, no individual is irreplaceable.
“Too much is made of a team losing a player. We won seven games last year, Brendan wasn’t playing in four of them. Any team can do without one player. I thought our midfield performance was outstanding. Sean Murphy and Eoghan Ruth dominated. We have a lot of options there in the middle third, a lot of big players that can play ball and we were confident that we would deal with the loss Brendan.”
Confidence that was justified in spades.
P Broderick (1-7, 3fs); D Walshe (1-2); E Ruth, D Foley (1f) (0-2 each); D St Ledger (f), S Murphy, S Gannon, L Walker (f).
R Burns 0-3 (2fs); T Durnin, G McSorley, W Woods 0-2 each; H Osborne, D Byrne, J Craven 0-1 each.
R Molloy, D Moran, S Redmond, C Lawlor, J Morrissey, D St Ledger, C Moran, E Ruth, S Murphy, S Gannon, D Foley, D Walshe, P Broderick, J Murphy, D O’Brien.
C Crowley for Moran (31), L Walker for Walshe (64), M Rennick for Morrissey (64), K Nolan for Lawlor (68), B Kavanagh for Moran (68)
C Lynch, D Marks, E Carolan, J Craven, D Maguire, B Duffy, A Williams, C Grimes, A McDonnell, C Downey, D Byrne, G McSorley, WWoods, T Durnin, R Burns.
H Osborne for Maguire (23 BC), R Holcroft for Byrne (57), R Nally for Woods (62) .
N Cullen (Fermanagh)