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Thursday 20 June 2019

From Offaly bad to worse again as Carlow savour survival

Carlow 2-14 Offaly 1-16

Carlow's Chris Nolan celebrates with teammate Kevin McDonald following their play-off victory over Offaly. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Carlow's Chris Nolan celebrates with teammate Kevin McDonald following their play-off victory over Offaly. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

The post-match scenes on the Tullamore pitch told a multitude. Offaly players beyond despair. Carlow celebrating as if they'd just won the Lotto.

And in a way, they had: the winter gale blowing straight down the pitch turned this Division 1B relegation play-off into something of a lottery.

And yet luck was not the ultimate arbiter: having trailed by 1-11 to 0-3 at the midpoint and despite playing with 14 men for the last hour, Carlow came up with the winning numbers as Offaly imploded.

Or, as losing boss Kevin Martin lamented: "Frankly, we just panicked."

Two goals within six minutes of the restart - from Séamus Murphy and the excellent Chris Nolan - were the catalyst for a spectacular 12-point turnaround.

Both stemmed from long deliveries, sparking goalmouth scrambles that epitomised Offaly's uncertainty once the pressure intensified.

What followed, Carlow gradually chipping away at the lead before edging in front through Marty Kavanagh's 68th minute free, was like a metaphor for Offaly hurling's descent from noughties glory to where they are today.

Out of Leinster. And now out of the league's top-12 for the first time since 2005.

Afterwards, Martin said there will be no "whingeing and moaning" and "no blame game" while insisting that he has a panel capable of winning the Joe McDonagh Cup.

But he also had a plea for Offaly fans on a day when less than a thousand went through the turnstiles. "We need people to get behind them now more than ever," he said. "To the public, if you see them out on the street, just talk to them as if it were any other time. They didn't go out there to lose."

It didn't look possible after Offaly's unanswered 1-5 start (Joe Bergin with the goal) and Edward Byrne's tenth minute straight red.

But, driven on by Nolan and Kavanagh, Carlow made full use of the wind in a fabled fightback. "It really is like a promotion," said Colm Bonnar. "If anything, it nearly surpasses anything that we've done so far."

Scorers - Carlow: M Kavanagh 0-8 (4f), C Nolan 1-4, S Murphy 1-1, JM Nolan 0-1. OFFALY: J Bergin 1-7 (4f, 1 '65'), S Dooley 0-3, S Kinsella, K Connolly 0-2 each, K Dunne, E Cahill (f) 0-1 each.

Carlow: B Tracey; M Doyle, P Doyle, A Corcoran; K McDonald, D English, R Coady; J Kavanagh, S Whelan; S Murphy, M Kavanagh, JM Nolan; C Nolan, E Byrne, J Doyle. Subs: J Murphy for J Kavanagh (34), T Joyce for J Doyle (60), J Nolan for J Murphy (66).

Offaly: E Cahill; P Rigney, N Houlihan, B Conneely; D Egan, P Camon, A Treacy; S Kinsella, C Gath; K Dunne, S Dolan, C Egan; S Dooley, J Bergin, K Connolly. Subs: A Flynn for Houlihan (inj 10), D Shortt for Treacy (ht), C Langton for Connolly (inj 56), M Egan for Gath (70), C Taylor for Conneely (70).

Wides: Carlow 7 (4+3); Offaly 8 (6+2).

Yellow: Carlow 1 (J Kavanagh 28); Offaly 3 (Treacy 15, Bergin 35+3, Dooley 59). RED: Carlow 1 (Byrne straight 10).

Ref: J Keenan (Wicklow). ATT: 888

Man of the match: Chris Nolan

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