Carlow come from behind to relegate Offaly
It was an exhilirating clash in O’Connor Park where Offaly slid further down the pyramid
Offaly’s Damien Egan and Andy Flynn with Carlow’s Martin Kavanaghduring the Allianz Hurling League Division 1B relegation playoff. Photo: Tom O’Hanlon/Inpho
Offaly 1-16 Carlow 2-14
Offaly’s fall from grace was completed when they suffered relegation from Division 1B of the National Hurling League in O’Connor Park on Sunday.
On a bitterly cold day with a strong downfield wind dictating the course of the game, Offaly’s relegation to hurling’s lower reaches came just over two decades since they won the last of their four All-Ireland titles.
Carlow’s fantastic come from behind win, achieved after playing with 14 men for almost all of the 70 minutes plus, should be the big story here but for most neutrals and of course the home support, the big talking point was the continued decline of a county who enlivened hurling so much in the 1980s and 1990s.
As a small group of jubilant Carlow supporters gathered with their team on the field afterwards, Offaly were left to reflect on a game that they let slip from their grasp but which also showed just why they are now in the Joe McDonagh Cup and Division 2.
In the first half, everything was set up for Offaly to survive. With the wind on their backs, they came flying out of the blocks and a seventh minute Joe Bergin goal helped them to a 1-3 to no score lead.
Then Carlow wing forward Edward Byrne was red carded for a clash that ended Niall Houlihan’s afternoon.
It was in the 13th minute before Chris Nolan got Carlow’s first point as they fought tenaciously against the odds. Offaly led by 10 points, 1-8 to 0-1 after 22 minutes but the game was won and lost from here to the interval. They lost their way after this and could only extend their half time lead by one further point, 1-11 to 0-3, leaving the door open for the visitors – Shane Dooley had blasted over the bar with the goal at his mercy in the 18th minute.
Within five minutes of the restart, Carlow were right back in it as scrambled goals from Seamus Murphy and Chris Nolan cut the gap to 2-5 to 1-12. Martin Kavanagh was in great form for Carlow and his points ate into the Offaly lead.
With the game in the melting pot, Offaly’s desperation increased as they engaged a short passing possession game but consistently spilt the sliotar or were overturned. With victory in sight, Carlow drove forward relentlessly. They had it back to a point in the 51st minute, were level in the 60th minute and Kavanagh’s free gave them the lead for the first time in the 67th minute.
Both sides exchanged late points as a heroic Carlow held on for a famous win.
OFFALY: E Cahill (0-1, f); P Rigney, N Houlihan, B Conneely; D Egan, P Camon, A Treacy; S Kinsella (0-2), C Gath; K Dunne (0-1), S Dolan, C Egan; S. Dooley (0-3), J Bergin (1-7, 4f and 1 ‘65’), K Connolly (0-2).
Subs: Aflynn for Houlihan (inj, 9min), D Shortt for Treacy (HT), C Langton for Connolly (55), M Egan for Gath (69), C Taylor for Conneely (69).
CARLOW: B Tracey; A Corcoran, P Doyle, M Doyle; R Coady, D English, K McDonald; J Kavanagh, S Whelan; S Murphy (1-1), M Kavanagh (0-8, 4f), E Byrne; J Doyle, JM Nolan (0-1), C Nolan (1-4).
Subs: J Murphy for Kavanagh (33min), T Joyce for J Doyle (59), J Nolan for J Murphy (65).
Referee: J Keenan (Wicklow).