Meath 7-13 Carlow 0-6
Not so long ago Anthony Rainbow discovered that Brendan Murphy, by some distance Carlow's best footballer, so good he was recruited by the Sydney Swans a few years back, was not away on army duty.
“I did ring Brendan and asked him to come in but he didn’t commit,” the Carlow manager revealed. “There is nothing I can do about that.”
That’s the nub of Carlow football’s ingrained and deepening problems of which Rainbow, an All Star wing back with Kildare, can’t solve.
“I don’t know what it is, whether it is clubs not getting behind the county scene, nor encouraging players to come in. I don’t know what it is to be honest but they have to look at themselves and say it is a great chance to play inter-county football. They are playing some of the best teams in Ireland, like Meath here today are probably in the top five. That should be motivation to put on the Carlow jersey and try and beat them.”
This nightmarish defeat came against a Meath team who headed home unsatisfied with their day’s work.
“Since I’ve come in here three years ago the panel has changed completely every season,” Rainbow continued. “The team that played today, only three of them played against Meath two years ago in Tullamore.”
That day they drew. He called the current panel the most honest he has worked with. Waterford will examine that statement in a fortnight.
“They are proud to be Carlow players while other players are not.”
How many footballers not playing for Carlow should be playing for Carlow?
“There are probably at least 10 footballers who could be in here with us, training with us and competing. It’s a dual county as well and there are a few hurlers who could come in.
“We’ll keep chipping away. We are certainly not going to throw in the towel. They are a great bunch of lads. We’ll get them in for training on Tuesday evening and refocus for Waterford.”
If they can convert the eight first-half wides there should be a dramatic improvement. They certainly can’t be any worse.
The life visibly drained out of Carlow players just before the interval when Stephen Bray punched Meath's third goal.
It’s not possible to accurately rate Mick O’Dowd’s side as they eased into a 3-6 to 0-2 lead without ever approaching championship intensity. Their hosts backed off them so much that despite some awful distribution the result was not in question from the 25th minute.
“I thought we were very poor in the first half,” said O’Dowd. “Carlow missed a goal and a few points early on and it was only when we got the penalty we started to drive on a bit. And then a couple of goals knocked their spirit.”
Brian Meade and Shane O'Rourke, playing his first championship game in three years, dominated the sky .
O’Rourke curled over a left-footed free to make it 0-3 to 0-1 after 22 minutes.
Next came a penalty but no black card despite Daniel St Ledger dragging opposite number Donal Keogan to ground. Mickey Newman buried the spot kick.
Moments later Ciarán Moran fired wide of the Meath goal. That meant when debutant Bryan McMahon drilled the second and clipped a point seconds later, before creating the third goal for the otherwise subdued Bray, Meath were out of sight.
A brilliant goal by Andrew Tormey confirmed the rout early in the second half.
Newman practically walked two more goals into the net in the space of a minute. Dalton McDonagh claimed a seventh which barely raised a cheer from the large Meath contingent in the 4,313 crowd.
MEATH: 1 P O'Rourke; 2 C Young, 3 K Reilly, 4 M Burke; 7 D Carroll (0-1), 6 D Keogan, 5 P Harnan; 8 B Meade, 9 S O'Rourke (0-2, one free); 10 D Tobin (0-1), 11 B McMahon (1-1), 12 A Tormey (1-3); 13 G Reilly, 14 S Bray (1-0), 15 M Newman (3-2, one free). Substitutions: 21 S Kenny (0-2) for D Keogan (half-time), 18 A Flanagan for M Meade (47 mins), 20 D McDonagh (1-0) for G Reilly (50 mins), 23 M O'Sullivan (0-1) for M Burke (52 mins), 17 P Gilsenan for S Bray (54 mins), 19 D Lenihan for B McMahon (61 mins).
CARLOW: 1 P Coady; 2 R Mahon, 3 S Mernagh, 4 BJ Molloy; 5 G Power, 6 D St Ledger, 7 B Kavanagh; 8 D Foley, 9 H Gahan; 12 D Bambrick, 11 C Moran, 10 M Meaney; 13 P Broderick (0-5, three frees, 45), 14 S Kinsella (0-1, free), 15 C Coughlan. Subs: 21 C Lawlor for S Mernagh (half-time), 24 K Nolan for G Power (43 mins), 26 E Ruth for D Foley (45 mins), 23 W Minchin for C Moran (47 mins), 19 J Kennedy for S Kinsella (54 mins).