Carlow hurlers Seamus Murphy and Richard Coady are hopeful Sunday’s league stalemate with 2018 All-Ireland finalists Galway will help grow the game in the county.
Since Colm Bonnar’s appointment as Carlow hurling manager at the end of 2016, the county has lost only seven of their last 25 competitive outings, adding three pieces of silverware to the trophy cabinet — the Christy Ring, Joe McDonagh Cup, and Allianz League Division 2A title — during this time.
But while the county team continues to take incremental steps forward, as evidenced by the weekend’s draw at home to the Tribesmen, the club scene is not the same picture of health.
Where once there were eight senior hurling clubs in Carlow and six as recent as 2016, there are only four — Mount Leinster Rangers, Ballinkillen, St Mullin’s, and Naomh Eoin — at present. Hurling, in effect, is confined to the south of the county.
Along with Erin’s Own Bagenalstown, there were just five clubs represented inside the whitewash at Netwatch Cullen Park on Sunday, compared to Galway’s 12, with a number of Carlow players expressing their hope that the unlikely draw against the 2017 champions will see the game take root throughout the county.
“It is a small pool we are pulling from. Every one of those four senior clubs has up to seven or so players involved. This group of players, under Pat English, first, and Colm Bonnar have really put it in. Hopefully, we can go further this year,” half-forward Seamus Murphy told KCLR 96FM.
“Hopefully, too, there will be something to come along behind us because things need to pick up around the place, in terms of structure and everyone playing hurling in the county. In our view, it has to spread.
"We are doing what we can. Hopefully, we can build a platform and the lads [coming behind us] can keep it going.”
Half-back Richard Coady says the necessary work must be put in to ensure Carlow can sustain their current form, against those positioned higher up hurling’s ladder, in the years ahead.
“It is a nice upwards curve that we have been on for the last couple of years. That is the ambitions of this team. We want to hurl at the top level.
You could see the delight of supporters after the game, the crowd greeting us and what exactly it meant. The future is kinda a little bit hazy at the minute as to what might or might not happen.
"Results like that today and kids being out there on the pitch at half-time pucking a ball, they’ll be mad to play hurling and emulate that someday.
“Colm [Bonnar] and his backroom team have done a fantastic job. Hurling at the top level will bring on players immensely, it will bring on the future, too, hopefully.”
Centre-forward Martin Kavanagh, who clipped 0-11 against Galway, including the free to level at the game at the death, was in no way surprised at their ability to take a point against a side which contained five players from last year’s All-Ireland final team.
“Anything but a result and we would have been disappointed. I know there is going to be a lot of talk in different counties that it was a bit of a shock.
"In our dressing room, it is not a shock. It is the least we expect from ourselves. It is brilliant to get a point and a point towards safety.
“Today is brilliant. It will put an auld boost in our step for the next few weeks’ training.
"We need to go down to Waterford with the same mentality for the next game, going down to get a result again.”