Galway were made sweat by a gallant Carlow side but did enough to kick off their bid to regain the Liam MacCarthy Cup with an unconvincing six-point victory in this Leinster senior hurling championship opening round tie at Pearse Stadium.
Micheal Donoghue’s side never looked like losing this one despite having their lead whittled back to three-points on five separate occasions but will know that huge improvement will be needed before Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford roll into town in two weeks-time.
There was little to separate the sides in the early stages, Colm Bonnar’s side giving as good as they got and deservedly taking a two-point lead with early points by Séamus Murphy and Marty Kavanagh (free).
Galway though soon found their feet and took the lead for the first time with three scores in quick succession by Niall Burke (two frees) and Davy Glennon.
The Tribesmen looked to play through the lines at every given opportunity but at times, over-elaborated to allow Carlow force turnovers and launch an attack of their own
Last year’s Joe McDonagh champions stuck with Galway to leave the sides tied 0-5 apiece approaching the quarter hour mark but in the ensuing 13 minutes, Galway struck for five-points without reply to stamp their authority on proceedings.
John Michael Nolan ended the barren spell for the Barrowsiders but Galway were the aggressors now, forging opportunities for Jason Flynn, Conor Cooney, Cathal Mannion and Brian Concannon to split the uprights and ensure a 0-14 to 0-8 half-time lead.
17 seconds into the second half, the game appeared sewn up when Cooney rattled the back of the net but back came Carlow almost immediately with a goal of their own through Chris Nolan.
They went point-for-point thereafter, Galway unable to shake of the Carlow resistance as Bonnar’s side grew in confidence, roared on by their passionate travelling support with each score.
Cathal Mannion excelled with two splendid points from his midfield berth but Kavanagh proved laser-like at the other end with three points of his own from open play.
The closest they got was three-points however, and the second goal they craved to really threaten the Tribesmen never materialised.
Conor Whelan helped drag his side over the line with three late points and further scores by Burke (free) and Flynn secured a six-point win.
Carlow though will return home with their heads held high, brimming with confidence ahead of next weekend’s clash with Kilkenny at Netwatch Cullen Park.
Galway: C Callanan; J Grealish (0-01), R Burke, A Harte; P Mannion (0-01), G McInerney, K Hussey; C Mannion (0-03), D Burke (0-01); N Burke (0-06f), J Flynn (0-03), B Concannon (0-01); C Whelan (0-04), C Cooney (1-03), D Glennon (0-01).
Subs: J Coen for Glennon, P Killeen for R Burke, J Hanbury for Hussey, S Loftus for Grealish.
Carlow: B Tracey; K McDonald, P. Doyle, M Doyle; E Nolan, D English, R Coady; J Kavanagh (0-01), S Whelan; J M Nolan (0-01), J Doyle (0-01), E Byrne; M Kavanagh (0-11,
0-06f), S Murphy (0-02), C Nolan (1-02).
Subs: D Byrne for Whelan, T Joyce for J M Nolan, R Smithers for J Kavanagh, J Nolan for E Byrne.
Referee: C Lyons (Cork)