Carlow surprise Wexford to set up clash with ‘the monster’

Wexford manager Séamus McEnaney held back in his assessment of referee Fergal Kelly

Carlow’s Brendan Murphy scores a late goal during their Leinster SFC first round win over Wexford. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Carlow’s Brendan Murphy scores a late goal during their Leinster SFC first round win over Wexford. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Carlow 2-17 Wexford 2-13

If you are only as good as your last game then Carlow might want to frame this one. Off the wall and into the slaughterhouse perhaps, but for now a little masterpiece to be viewed entirely on its own merits, their first win in the Leinster football championships in six years.

Any thoughts of playing All-Ireland champions Dublin on Saturday week – on the neutral grounds of Portlaoise – or “the monster”, as Carlow manager Turlough O’Brien said with a smile, can rest for a while, at least until the end of this report.

Because what this game epitomised was that any team, even against the odds, can raise their game on championship Sunday. On those grounds alone Carlow were utterly deserving winners. Brendan Murphy reminded everyone in attendance why he’s sometimes dubbed the best midfielder in the country, hitting 1-2 – his thundering goal in added time perfectly sealing the deal, and easily the best performance of his career.

With his 0-10, five from play, Paul Broderick would have been man-of-the-match were in not for Murphy’s towering inferno, although he retired a little easy, sent off on a second yellow card on 63 minutes: that took nothing from Broderick’s lash tight afternoon, just back to full tilt after two years of injury.

Defying gravity

Tied up at 0-8 at each time, Danny Moran whipped in Carlow’s first goal four minutes after the restart, although they should have had several more – Sean Murphy’s explosive burst and shot in the first half defying gravity to rebound out off the crossbar. Captain Darragh Murphy chipped in with two vital points but throughout the field Carlow hit where it hurt, most just above the belt.  

Wexford were fancied by some to win this with one hand waving free, but those odds soon lengthened. They lost the captain and midfielder Daithí Waters to a black card on 19 minutes, their other midfielder Colm Kehoe stretchered off on 27 minutes. After 46 minutes they lost wing back Eoghan Nolan to a second yellow card, yet still kept themselves well in it.

First, PJ Banville poked home a goal – on the second attempt – which brought them back to within a point, and not long after that full back Naomhan Rossiter popped up to snatch their second on 50 minutes. That tied it up again, 2-11 to 1-14.

Yet Carlow’s physicality and pure size alone ultimately proved too much for Wexford to handle, Murphy’s influence on the game continuing to soar. Broderick gave them some breathing space again with another superb point on 61 minutes (his free-taking equally flawless), and while his second yellow card cast some brief doubt over Carlow’s ability to close out the game, Murphy promptly proved otherwise, helping keep Wexford to just 2-3 from play.

“We’ve the hard work done for the last three years or so, and they’ve really gelled together now as a panel,” said O’Brien, in the third season in charge of his native county. “We’ve a great system of play there, a great backroom team, and I want to pay tribute to Steve Poacher, their coach, he’s done great work with them.

“Carlow football is going in the right direction. I think we will give a good account of ourselves against Dublin when it comes around. We’ll enjoy today first and we’ll give it everything we have it two weeks time.

“But you can see here what it means to the people of Carlow and the players in particular. These guys have put in a massive effort. And there is a hard core of this panel that have been together for 10 years without waver. We know we’re in bonus territory playing the Dubs, no doubt about it. But we’ll regroup and we’ll assess and see how we can tackle this ‘monster’, see what we can do.”

Fancied a shot 

In the last four seasons alone, Dublin have won their opening game in Leinster by a combined total of 65 points, although Wexford manager Séamus McEnaney had certainly fancied a shot at the All-Ireland champions.

“Shattered, absolutely gutted,” said McEnaney, before continually biting his lip when it came to any mention of referee Fergal Kelly from Longford.

“I thought we set up well, but I didn’t legislate for losing my two midfielders, and the third one we put in, losing him as well. But I’ve said before Brendan Murphy is probably the best midfielder in the country, and he got a foothold on us.

“Losing Eoghan Nolan as well, and I don’t want to talk about Fergal Kelly’s performance. I’ve enough to worry about. But I will say the whole black card thing annoys me, and it’s like there are different black cards every game you go to.

“But fair play to Carlow, I knew it would be an absolute battle. But Eoghan Nolan’s second yellow? It was a tackle. Are we going to bring away the tackle? That’s it. Interview over.”

The loss of Waters, for a trip close to the sideline on Foley, his opposing captain, seemed harsh in the circumstances and certainly proved costly. Though even if he had stayed on the field, it would still have belonged to Brendan Murphy.

“It is a terrible disappointment that it isn’t here,” O’Brien said of the Dublin game, Dr Cullen Park not have the seating capacity. “That’s the way to is and it’s not going to change.”

CARLOW: 1 C Kearney; 2 C Crowley, 3 S Redmond, 22 C Lawlor; 5 D Moran (1-0), 6 Daniel St Ledger, 7 G Kelly (0-1); 8 B Murphy (1-2), 9 S Murphy; 10 E Ruth, 11 D Foley (capt) (0-2), 12 A Kelly (0-1); P Broderick (0-10, five frees), C Moran, J Murphy. Substitutes: 18 S Gannon (0-1) for Moran (24 mins, inj), 17 BJ Molloy for Crowley (37mins+), 21 J Clarke for Ruth, M Rennick for D Moran (both 52 mins), K Nolan for J Murphy (64 mins), 20 S Clarke for K Kelly (65 mins).

WEXFORD: 16 C Swaine; 2 M Furlong (0-1), 3 N Rissiter (1-0), 4 J Rossiter; 26 A Flynn (0-1), 6 J Wadding; 7 B Malone; 8 D Waters (capt), 9 C Kehoe; 10 K O’Grady, 11 B Brosnan (0-5, all frees), 5 E Nolan; 13 C Lyng (0-5, all frees), 14 J Tubritt, 15 PJ Banville 1-1). Substitutes: 24 N Hughes for Waters (19 mins, black card); 21 J Leacy for Kehoe (27 mins, inj); 25 R Devereux for Rossiter (52 mins), 18 P Curtis for Turbritt (58 mins), 20 C Carty for Furlong (67 mins), 22 D Shanley for Flynn (68 mins).

Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford). 

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