Dublin eventually get heads around Carlow’s siege mentality

Diarmuid Connolly’s discipline will be a talking point long after the game is forgotten

Dublin 0-19 Carlow 0-7

Funny how games like this redefine your idea of what counts as impressive. Dublin faced a Carlow team that set up with the population density of a Chinese city inside their 45 and finished the night with 0-19 to their name, yet nobody left O’Moore Park throwing bouquets at their feet. Carlow scored two points from a handful of attacks in the whole of the second half, yet anyone who watched this would give them every chance of beating whoever comes out of the qualifier hat on Tuesday morning.

What’s more, both reactions are entirely on point. Dublin weren’t slick or ruthless or even particularly assured in front of the 13,238 crowd in Portlaoise. They looked for all the world like a team that was only finding its thread again after a long lay-off since the league final.

Four of their starting forwards didn’t score from play. Once Jack McCaffrey was taken off on 53 minutes, you had to lick the top of your pencil and think hard for another Dublin candidate for man of the match. Ciarán Kilkenny would have been closest – although in the end, the Sky Sports nod went to Carlow midfielder Seán Murphy.


The only incident of any note in the game was a Diarmuid Connolly transgression that may well see him spending some time with the CCCC and friends. Having seen a line-ball awarded against him midway through the second half, Connolly had words with linesman Ciarán Branagan and during a heated exchange, put his hand on the Down official's chest.

The fact that neither linesman nor referee Seán Hurson – who was standing close by – took any action at the time may spell the start and finish of the matter. But not for the first time, Connolly’s discipline will be a talking point long after the game itself is forgotten.

It was a brute of a game to watch and you can only admire Carlow for making it that way. It all comes down to expectations. Carlow were expected to turn up and feed grapes to the gilded princes of the capital and instead they showed them a thorough and healthy dose of disrespect. They dug a moat across their own 45, stood 15 players behind it and pulled up the drawbridge.

Dublin have faced that sort of siege defence before of course but for long stretches here, especially in the first half, they looked distinctly out of practice. They ran down alleys, coughed up turnovers, dropped passes and missed chances. For all of Carlow’s enthusiasm, the Dubs still carved out 16 scoring chances before the break and only converted eight of them.

You have to go back to 2009 for the last time the first goalless game of a Leinster Championship involved Dublin. They got only one half-look at a green flag chance in this one, Kevin McManamon pinging a shot off the outside of the upright from a tight angle shortly after half-time. Other than that, Carlow ensured that as Basil Fawlty might put it, that particular avenue of pleasure was closed off.

“We didn’t come to keep the score down,” asserted Carlow manager Turlough O’Brien afterwards. “We came to compete and see where it would take us, to measure ourselves against Dublin and see what potential is in the team.

“I’m sure 100 per cent of pundits thought Dublin were going to win at a canter. It didn’t turn out that way. Maybe at the end they put a bit of daylight between them and us but I put that down to the extra man telling.

“I think Carlow showed plenty of football and the structure of the team was good. Dublin didn’t get a shot on goal because we made it very difficult for them. Dublin found it very hard to break us down. Maybe if we had had 15 men at the end, it would have been a bit closer.”

As it was, they were only 0-8 to 0-5 down at half-time and 0-9 to 0-6 behind when Brendan Murphy got his second yellow card for some off-the-ball wrestling with Jonny Cooper. Dublin eased out the remaining half-hour by 0-10 to 0-1. Routine stuff, even if it wasn't the disembowelling most expected.

"Brendan Murphy getting sent off had an impact on the game," Dublin manager Jim Gavin said, generously. "He's a quality player. They only had one attack in the first 15 minutes of the second half. I just thought we were in control of the game. First half the shooting was a little bit off and that will have to be improved."

DUBLIN: Stephen Cluxton; Mick Fitzsimons, Jonny Cooper, Eric Lowndes; Niall Scully (0-1), Cian O'Sullivan, Jack McCaffrey (0-2); Brian Fenton, James McCarthy; Ciarán Kilkenny (0-3), Diarmuid Connolly (0-1, 45), Paul Mannion (0-1); Kevin McManamon, Con O'Callaghan (0-2, two frees), Dean Rock (0-6, six frees).

Subs: Bernard Brogan (0-2) for McManamon (45 mins); Shane Carthy for McCaffrey (53 mins); Mark Schutte for Scully (58 mins); Conor McHugh (0-1) for Rock (59 mins); David Byrne for O'Sullivan (62 mins); Denis Bastick for Fenton (67 mins).

CARLOW: Craig Kearney; Chris Crowley, Shane Redmond, Conor Lawlor; Danny Moran (0-1), Daniel St Ledger, Gary Kelly; Brendan Murphy (0-1), Seán Murphy (0-1); Eoghan Ruth, Darragh Foley (0-1, free), Alan Kelly; Paul Broderick (0-3, three frees), Seán Gannon, John Murphy.

Subs: Ciaran Moran for S Murphy (blood, 20-24 mins); Mark Rennick for A Kelly (40 mins); Shane Clark for Ruth (53 mins); Jamie Clarke for G Kelly (58 mins); Kieran Nolan for Crowley (63 mins); Barry John Molloy for D Moran (67 mins); C Moran for Broderick (69 mins).

Referee: Seán Hurson (Tyrone).

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times