Darragh Foley hoping Carlow football on an upward curve
After a positive league campaign, championship clash with Wexford now looms large
Carlow’s Darragh Foley: “Our aim is to get over Wexford and see where that takes us, hopefully we get a good run in the championship.” Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
It didn’t get a whole lot of attention but the Carlow footballers had their best league campaign in the 10 seasons since the league restructured in 2008.
Even when the county created a piece of modern history in 2011 by reaching a first Leinster semi-final since the 1950s, their status had still been mid-table in Division Four.
This season though Turlough O’Brien’s side finished third, just one point behind promoted Wexford, who they beat on the last day of the divisional fixtures.
Darragh Foley captains the team and has long been one of its leadership figures whether operating at centrefield, wing forward or sometimes on the edge of the square since his debut as a teenager in 2010.
“It was a positive league campaign for us,” he says.
“We targeted promotion at the start of the year but unfortunately we slipped up in one or two of the games and it cost us, but we blooded some new players and worked on a system that seemed to suit us.”
If there is a regret about the league it must be that having been the only county to lay a glove on Westmeath all campaign – a battling draw on the opening day – Carlow managed to lose to London at home the following week. Had they won, the match against an already promoted Wexford would have been far from being a dead rubber. It might have been effectively a promotion play-off.
“There was a lot of shadow boxing that day,” he accepts. “They didn’t put out their strongest 15 and we didn’t put out our strongest 15 either.”
His fielding ability, he says, was nurtured during a promising underage soccer career both with County Carlow and Lourdes Celtic in Dublin during which he played in goal, helping to develop his handling ability and timing. His use of the ball and kicking acumen are also notable features of his football game and he is one of the team’s free-takers.
Focused on the rematch with Wexford, which will be at home in Netwatch Cullen Park on 21st May, he is looking forward to the summer.
“With Dublin being as good as they are it is a tough championship to be involved in, but we really look forward to it. It’s a great time of the year. The weather’s good and you get a bit of a crowd out.
“Our aim is to get over Wexford and see where that takes us, hopefully get a good run in the championship. We haven’t had a long summer in a long time.
“It’s six years since we got to the Leinster semi-final and we’re hoping to build on the league campaign and progress in the next couple of years.”
Despite the experience in the province of battling in the early stages before switching to the qualifiers, he doesn’t resent the championship format as a dead end for counties like Carlow.
“The GPA brought out a survey that asked about a graded championship and it was voted down. Maybe they could bring in a ‘champions league’ structure with different groups of four. It might bring on the so-called weaker counties by giving them more games and exposure to the bigger teams. Maybe it could be looked at farther down the line but we’re happy enough with the way it is and looking forward to the challenge this year.
“We look forward to it regardless. We’ve seen counties like Longford beating Monaghan last year and those kind of results that no-one would have seen. We’ll try and take a giant -killing if we can.”