Darragh Foley doesn’t hold particularly fond memories of his last championship meeting with the Dubs.
It was no slaughter, though, as you might expect. Instead, Carlow slumped off the field at Dr Cullen Park knowing they’d let victory slip from their grasp. Meath whistler Joe Curley was the man in the middle for the 2010 Leinster U21 semi-final clash between the two counties and his officiating ended up overshadowing the near shock result, a garda escort required to bring the referee safely from the field.
With Dublin ahead by 0-14 to 0-13 at the end of the second period of extra-time, Brendan Murphy made a fine catch not far from the Dublin posts. The home side felt he was fouled by a swarm of opposing defenders, but Curley took a different view and awarded a free out for overcarrying. The visitors, managed by Jim Gavin and led by Dean Rock and Jonny Copper, held on and subsequently captured both the Leinster and All-Ireland titles.
Foley, who’ll captain Carlow this Saturday, was a fairly central figure in the controversial ending seven years ago.
“I actually took the sideline ball and Brendan went inside, rose up and caught it,” Foley recalls.
“He got pulled to the ground but the referee gave a free out rather than a 14-yard tap over. We felt fierce aggrieved. It made it a lot harder on us that they went on to win the All-Ireland. They progressed on after that.
“We always have a bit of regret over it. Unfortunately, we haven’t had that much success the last couple of years. It was very hard to take. You see what they’ve gone on to achieve. There is a bit of ‘what if?’”
From that Carlow team, five — Foley, Murphy, Shane Redmond, Barry John Molloy, and Eoghan Ruth — were involved in the recent Leinster SFC victory over Wexford, the county’s first since 2011.
“I can only speak for myself. Every year, there’s no question about returning to the panel. I just want to get back in there and train as hard as possible. It will be a question of them telling me to stop, rather than me stopping.
“Most of these lads are my best friends. If I wasn’t in this panel, there would be a big void in my life. Everyone that’s available wants to play for the county.”
He added: “Four or five years ago, I probably would have had a different answer. We were at the bottom of Division 4. We were getting heavy defeats, but in fairness to Turlough O’Brien, he’s come in and steadied the ship. Lads have seen that progression year-on-year and they want to be on a Carlow team that delivers.”
The centre-forward is excited about renewing acquaintances with the All-Ireland champions.
“When the draw was made at the start of the year and we saw that the winners of our Wexford clash would play Dublin, you did start to think about it a little bit.
“The well-wishers have been unreal. Just the other day, I received a letter from my old school, Tullow Community School. Just a ‘congratulations and all the best against Dublin’.
“We don’t want to go out there and get annihilated, as people are saying, that we’re going to get beaten by 20 points or whatever. We’re going to go out there, enjoy ourselves, do ourselves justice and give Dublin a game.”
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