Shortly before the Leinster hurling championship began, Marty Kavanagh admitted that Carlow would be targeting the Dublin game in particular.
If they could win it, he reasoned, they’d have a great chance of avoiding bottom spot in the Leinster table and a return to the Joe McDonagh Cup.
“Dublin at home is the game you’d look at to get a result,” admitted Kavanagh at the time though in reality there was no sense of any banana skin about this encounter.
Dublin dominated virtually from pillar to post, with Eamonn Dillon sniping 2-2, and could afford to lose Shane Barrett to a straight red card before half-time and still stretch the gap out to 12 points by full-time.
That Barrett dismissal, for a high challenge on Carlow’s Jack Kavanagh, could prove costly in the long run.
They’ll need the Na Fianna man and all their key lieutenants for their final group game on Saturday week against Galway at Parnell Park, a game they must win to secure a top-three finish.
“My understanding of the rule is that it (a straight red card) is for striking with intent,” said Dublin manager Mattie Kenny of the sanction.
“I think a guy broke through and Shane’s reaction was to put up his hand and his hurl, there was no striking action. Was his arm and hurl high? Yes, it was. But there was no striking action.
There were five or six other incidents like that in the game where guys would break a tackle and either the player ducks, or their hand and hurl comes up. Unless there’s a deliberate striking action it shouldn’t be a red card.
Kenny said Dublin may appeal the dismissal and revealed that Liam Rushe, who wasn’t part of the 26 in Carlow, could also miss the Galway game.
The powerful full-forward is suffering from ankle ligament damage sustained against Kilkenny and Kenny couldn’t offer any certainties.
“Liam is one of the great Dublin warriors and Liam will do everything he can to try to be right for that game,” said the ex-Galway selector.
Qualification for the All-Ireland series is at least in Dublin’s hands after drawing with Wexford and achieving this first Championship win of the Kenny era.
“It’s the deciding game next and going into that last round of games there’ll be four teams still in the running for three positions,” said Kenny.
“So there’ll be a lot at stake for everybody. As I said after the Wexford game, that point for drawing means that the Championship is still in our own hands.
"It’s knock-out from now on from us, we have to win every game.
"We prepared well for the game and the guys came down and gave a very good performance today".— Dublin GAA (@DubGAAOfficial) June 2, 2019
Dublin hurling boss Mattie Kenny spoke to #DubsTV after today's win over Carlow in the Leinster Championship. #UpTheDubs pic.twitter.com/SSUkDPjgZH
“We have all our losses and draws used up so we have to make sure to get a win the next day.”
Barrett’s loss didn’t affect Dublin as they built on their 2-10 to 0-8 half-time lead to win with ease.
They were 14 points clear at one stage in the second-half when Carlow enjoyed a brief burst of scoring and sniped a James Doyle goal.
But it was one-way traffic for the most part with Dillon netting in the 13th and 30th minutes.
He burst away from the Carlow defence for the first and planted the ball in the bottom left corner.
Then he capitalised on great work by Conal Keaney and top scorer Ryan for the second goal.
Free-taker Ryan hit 0-9 while veteran Keaney struck four points from play before being rested.
Cian Boland had a strong first-half before fading out while Eoghan O’Donnell was terrific in defence again.
Carlow are in big trouble after three straight defeats but could pull off a miracle escape if they beat Wexford and other results go their way.
“We know it’s going to be a cauldron of physicality and intensity against Wexford,” said Carlow manager Colm Bonnar.
“They’re going to come at us very, very hard and try to put that game beyond us. But in a hurling game, there’s always hope.”
Bonnar lamented Marty Kavanagh’s goal chance that slammed off the post in the 41st minute.
“It was just the width of a post and who is to say how things would have gone if we’d got that and then the goal from James Doyle,” said Bonner.
“I thought Dublin were a bit wasteful for a period and we were coming back into it. But it just didn’t happen for us.”
Doyle went one better than Kavanagh with a cool finish shortly after as Carlow conjured 1-2 without reply between the 50th and 53rd minutes.
But Dublin closed the game out with points from Ryan, Dillon, Ronan Hayes and influential sub Fergal Whitely and weren’t flattered by the 12-point winning margin.
“Credit to Dublin, I don’t know if they’ve been given the credit they deserve but they’re a tough team to play against,” said Bonnar.
P. Ryan (0-9, 5 frees); E. Dillon (2-2); C. Keaney (0-4); R. Hayes, F. Whitely (0-2 each); C. Boland, T. Connolly, E. O’Donnell (0-1 each).
M. Kavanagh (2 frees), C. Nolan (2 frees)(0-4 each); J. Doyle (1-0); S. Whelan (0-2); E. Byrne, J.M. Nolan, J. Kavanagh (0-1 each).
A. Nolan; P. Smyth, E. O’Donnell, C. Hendricken; C. Crummey, S. Moran, S. Barrett; T. Connolly, S. Treacy; C. Boland, D. Sutcliffe, E. Dillon; C. Keaney, R Hayes, P. Ryan.
D. O’Connell for Connolly (33); J. Malone for Boland (48); J. Madden for Hendrick (49); J. Hetherton for Keaney (54); F. Whitely for Ryan (60).
B. Tracey; A. Corcoran, P. Doyle, M. Doyle; K. McDonald, D. English, R. Coady; J. Kavanagh, S. Whelan; J.M. Nolan, E. Byrne, S. Murphy; J. Doyle, C. Nolan, M. Kavanagh.
E. Nolan for Coady (24); R. Smithers for C. Nolan (32-h/t, blood); G. Coady for Corcoran (35); Smithers for Murphy (44); T. Joyce for Kavanagh (50); D. Murphy for Byrne (59-64); D. Murphy for J. Doyle (65).
J Keenan (Wicklow).
Derek McGrath and Ger Cunningham review the weekend's hurling with Anthony Daly