It didn’t feel like a 12-point pummeling and Carlow weren’t afraid to show it.

Leinster SFC quarter-final

Dublin 0-19 Carlow 0-7

In the vicinity of Turlough O’Brien’s post-match press interview, Seán Murphy was enthusiastically congratulated by a team-mate who informed him of his man-of-the-match award.

They hardly constituted celebrations but chests were puffed out as if to say to Dublin like Jake La Motta to Sugar Ray Robinson in Raging Bull that they never got them down. But for a Kevin McManamon half-chance early in the second half, Craig Kearney’s goal-line was hardly threatened.

Carlow informed us they were here to compete but to contain would have been a more accurate description of their strategy. Their three-point deficit at half-time, 0-8 to 0-5, was a testament to their reinforced rearguard. 

It needed all of Dublin’s ingenuity to find space in the first half and but for a spate of adjudged indiscipline in the second half Carlow would have made life even harder for the All-Ireland champions.

Up until the closing stages when Carlow understandably lost some of their composure after such an energy-sapping show of defensive football and Dublin sent over three points from play in the first three additional minutes, the majority of the winners scores came from frees.

Con O’Callaghan sent over the last two frees for his only scores of the evening. O’Callaghan, Kevin McManamon and Diarmuid Connolly were just three forwards who suffered from claustrophobia as Carlow packed out their defence.

But for Brendan Murphy’s dismissal 13 minutes into the second half for a second yellow card, the margin may have been even closer as he was having the better of the exchanges with Brian Fenton in midfield. 

However, the absence of Murphy, as vital as he was and is to Carlow, only deprived them of an outlet. The system to restrict and restrain Dublin carried on regardless.

Two second-half points was hardly the mark of a team whose county board Twitter account was promising big things prior to throw-in.

One tweet warned Dublin to “Bring your Sam, your Hill, your COYBIB (come on you boys in blue), your hats, flags & headbands. Bring Molly bleedin Malone too but understand this: CARLOW IS RISING.”

The following one carried a photo from the 1940s when Carlow were in the pomp. The caption read: “We weren’t afraid of you then and we ain’t afraid of you now either...”

The truth is Carlow set out their stall as if they feared a tanking. Jim Gavin had 19 reasons to take exception to a line of questioning about Dublin being able to break down mass defences. His opposite number O’Brien, though, felt he himself had grounds to smile. 

“100% of pundits would have said Dublin are going to win this at a canter. It didn’t turn out that way. Maybe, in the end, they put a bit of daylight between us but that was the advantage of the extra man. I think Carlow showed there is plenty of football in them.

“We don’t need condescension dripping from pens or keyboards. We’re very happy to be on that pitch with Dublin. We gave a very, very good account of ourselves.

“I think a lot of counties have fallen foul of the general consensus that it’s a foregone conclusion when you play Dublin – they’re beaten before they start. I hope today gives other Leinster counties, who would consider themselves to be higher ranked than Carlow, the belief they would rise to the challenge when they do meet Dublin.”

Carlow, for the most part, were willing to sacrifice endeavour for survival but their attempts to break through Dublin’s tackling was fascinating at times. Seán Murphy was excellent in that regard and his block on Dean Rock in the 38th minute after a burst to get back and provide cover was superb. 

Their attacks, guerrilla in nature in the first half, dried up in the second as Ciarán Kilkenny began to take order of the middle third. Jonny Cooper looked to have his troops well marshalled at the back and the introduction of Bernard Brogan gave Dublin a spearhead that they had been previously been lacking. 

The Carlow crowd grew increasingly upset with Seán Hurson’s whistling in favour of Dublin but then the ball was coming that way so often it was always going to be difficult not to fall foul of him. Still, there was praise for them from Gavin. 

“When you look at a lot of their players, a lot of their forward line have played in midfield, they’re big players, they’re physically well conditioned, they’re very well coached. They’re a very physical side and they used that to good effect in the game. I still thought we worked our way around that.”

Scorers for Dublin:

D. Rock (0-6, frees); C. Kilkenny (0-3); J. McCaffrey, C. O’Callaghan (frees), B. Brogan (0-2 each); P Mannion, N. Scully, C. McHugh, D. Connolly (45) (0-1 each).

Scorers for Carlow:

P. Broderick (0-3, frees); B. Murphy, S. Murphy, D. Foley (free), D. Moran (0-1 each).

DUBLIN:

S. Cluxton (c) 7; J. Cooper 7, M. Fitzsimons 7, E. Lowndes 7; J. McCaffrey 8, C. O’Sullivan 7, J. McCarthy 7; B. Fenton 6, C. Kilkenny 8; N. Scully 6, C. O’Callaghan 6, D. Connolly 6; P. Mannion 6, D. Rock 7, K. McManamon 5.

Subs for Dublin:

B. Brogan 7 for K. McManamon (45); S. Carthy 6 for J. McCaffrey (53); M. Schutte 6 for N. Scully, C. McHugh 6 for D. Rock (both 58); D. Byrne 6 for C. O’Sullivan (63); D. Bastick (no rating) for B. Fenton (67).

CARLOW:

C. Kearney 6; C. Lawlor 6, S. Redmond 7, J. Murphy 6; C. Crowley 6, D. St Ledger 7, G. Kelly 6; B. Murphy 6, S. Murphy 9; E. Ruth 6, D. Foley (c) 6, A. Kelly 6; D. Moran 7, P. Broderick 6, S. Gannon 6.

Subs for Carlow:

C. Moran for S. Murphy (blood, 21-24); M. Rennick 7 for A. Kelly (41); S. Clarke 6 for E. Ruth (53); J. Clarke 6 for G. Kelly (59); K. Nolan 6 for C. Crowley (63); B.J. Molloy (no rating) for D. Moran (68); C. Moran (no rating) for P. Broderick (69).

Sent off:

B. Murphy (second yellow, 48).

Referee:

S. Hurson (Tyrone).


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