Carlow showed all the character and class that earned them the Allianz League Division 2A title earlier this year when they came with a late surge to deny Kerry with five late points in succession at Netwatch Cullen Park this afternoon, picking up a victory in an entertaining first round Joe McDonagh Cup clash.
The home side could and should have established a firm foothold in the first half of the contest when they created a series of great goal chances in the warm sunshine, but their close-range finishing deserted them and that could have cost them dearly when Kerry started to find some form after half time.
The Kingdom started to get on top in their own half of the field and while they struggled to make any impact on the scoreboard from distance, their inside line of Padraig Boyle, Shane Conway and Jack Goulding started to cause Carlow plenty of problems, moving two points up as the game entered the last five minutes of normal time.
Carlow dug deep to produce a stunning late run of scores however, with Kevin McDonald, Jack Kavanagh and man of the match Edward Byrne all prominent as they did enough to secure a vital victory.
Both sides burst out of the traps, taking full advantage of the glorious weather and the immaculate playing surface.
Kerry led by the odd point in nine after just eight minutes of hurling and while both sides approached their attacking play in very different ways, they were equally effective.
Kerry used the pace and elusiveness of young hurlers such as Shane Conway and teenager Barry O’Mahony to break tackles and create overlaps, while Carlow’s hurling was far more direct, striking long diagonal balls into the corners to try and bring James Doyle and Denis Murphy into the game.
Doyle, Murphy, Chris Nolan and Edward Byrne all failed to find the net with excellent goal chances as the tie ebbed and flowed, with Carlow taking the smallest possible lead – 0-10 to 0-9 – into the dressing room at half-time.
Carlow also had the better of the early stages of the second half, extending their lead out to three points when Kevin McDonald pounced on a short puckout and fired it straight back over Martin Stackpoole’s crossbar, but Kerry made a few tactical switches, not least moving Daniel Collins to centre back, and they started to get the upper hand in a number of the key individual battles.
A glorious sideline cut from Jack Goulding and a string of excellent points from Padraig Boyle edged them in front, and when Boyle fired over a ’65 to make it 0-18 to 0-16 in favour of the visitors after 60 minutes, they looked like the more likely winners.
There was to be one final twist in the tale however as Carlow dug deep and with Edward Byrne leading the charge, by now the primary target for the vast majority of Brian Tracey’s puckouts, they produced a string of late points that wrapped up their victory.
Carlow: Brian Tracey; Alan Corcoran, Paul Doyle, Michael Doyle; Richard Coady, David English (0-01, free), Richard Kelly; Jack Kavanagh (0-01), Kevin McDonald (0-02); Jack Murphy, Paul Coady (0-01), Edward Byrne (0-04); James Doyle (0-03), Denis Murphy (0-06, 0-05 frees), Chris Nolan (0-01, free).
Subs: Ed Joyce for Nolan (50), Ross Smithers (0-01) for J Murphy (56), Diarmuid Byrnes (0-01) for Denis Murphy (57).
Kerry: Martin Stackpoole; John Buckley, Bryan Murphy, Tom Murnane; Sean Weir, Mikey Boyle, Daniel Collins; Brandon Barrett, Daithí Griffin; Brendan O’Leary, Barry O’ Mahony, Colum Harty (0-01); Padraig Boyle (0-07, 0-01 free, 0-01 ‘65), Shane Conway (0-06, 0-05 frees), Jack Goulding (0-04, 0-01 sideline).
Sub: Daniel O’Carroll for Harty (67). Ref: Justin Heffernan (Wexford)