Bord Gáis Energy Leinster U21 Hurling Championship
At O’Moore Park, Portlaoise
By John Whelan
Carlow have sealed a dramatic win in the Bord Gáis Energy Leinster U21 Hurling Championship. As the game went into the closing five minutes Carlow goalkeeper Jack Barron saw his puck out drop into the Laois half only for referee Gavin Quilty to call a halt to play. The umpire to Barron’s right stuck out his hand to call Quilty in, and after a brief discussion a throw ball was given just outside the Carlow square, Barron was adjudged to have stepped outside of his area when he took the puck-out. From the resulting throw ball came an absolute free-for-all inside the Carlow goalmouth and despite gallant efforts to puck it clear PJ Scully somehow found space to get on the end of a pass and rattled the back of net. It was the fourth time Laois scored in the second half and the last time.
Martin Kavanagh got Carlow’s first score of the game from a free on five minutes, P.J. Scully levelled it up from a free on the next play. Laois showed signs of danger when a shot dropped short and Jack Barron dealt with it very well to clear it. On nine minutes Laois would make their break through when another ball dropped short but this time Charles Dwyer made no mistake in blasting the ball past Barron to give Laois the lead.
Carlow responded well to the early Laois goal with James Doyle and Martin Kavanagh both converting frees. Ger Coady levelled the game on sixteen minutes but Laois didn’t lose their lead for long. Charles Dwyer found himself in on goal again and slotted the ball to the back of the net for his second goal to give Laois a three point lead. Once again Carlow responded to the goal well with James Doyle rattling the back of the Laois net after a pass from Martin Kavanagh. Doyle would add a point shortly thereafter to give Carlow the lead. Dwyer was not finished, he got in on goal and completed his twelve minute hat-trick. Cian Taylor and Ronan Broderick added points for Laois to keep their momentum going. James Doyle converted a free to get Carlow back on the scoreboard. Charles Dwyer scored a point to give him a first half tally of 3-1. At half time Carlow trailed 3-4 to 1-6.
Kevin McDonald was introduced as a half time substitute and after just two minutes of the second half McDonald converted a free to bring Carlow back to within three points. Michael Grady had stripped the ball off a Laois man deep inside the Carlow half, dispatched it long to Martin Kavanagh on the far wing and there Kavanagh was fouled for McDonald to get Carlow’s first score of the half. Despite the displeasure of conceding three first half goals Carlow were not fazed by it and when Peter Shaw sent a long ball in towards goal the Laois keeper won it only for Ayrton Gleeson to dislodge the ball. From the resulting break Gleeson smashed to ball to the back of the Laois net to level the sides once more.
Kevin McDonald and Martin Kavanagh exchanged scores to keep Carlow’s purple patch going. Two converted frees from McDonald and one from play coupled with two points from play from Martin Kavanagh meant Carlow were now five points up and had scored 1-6 unanswered. Kavanagh’s score on forty four minutes was a moment of sheer individual skill as the ball defied gravity as he ducked and dived past his man, shortened his grip and put it over. On forty four minutes Laois finally registered their first score of the half with a Ciaran Collier point. McDonald got his fifth point in just twenty minutes in response. Laois were in on goal again and Dwyer looked sure to grab a fourth goal but Barron denied him to keep Carlow five points clear.
P.J. Scully added two quick frees to bring Laois back to three points down with nine minutes left. McDonald converted another free to crucially edge Carlow four clear. Michael Grady won the ball deep inside his own half yet again and was fouled.
Then came the drama. PJ Scully’s goal after the throw ball meant Carlow led by just one point. Eyes became fixed on the electronic clock on the scoreboard as four minutes remained. Martin Kavanagh somehow won possession from what can only be described as a ruck in the middle of the pitch. Kavanagh was then fouled and McDonald made no mistake in putting it over the bar. It was McDonald’s seventh point, a remarkable return for the young man who along with Chris Nolan who also came on as second half substitute, showed just how much young players can offer. In the end a late red card for Laois consigned them to defeat as Carlow maintained possession as the clock ticked over sixty three and Quilty blew the full time whistle. Next up for Carlow is a Bord Gáis Energy Leinster Semi Final against Kilkenny or Dublin on June 25th in Carlow.
Jack Barron, Sean Whelan, Luke Roche, Michael Malone, Jack Murphy, Ger Coady(0-1), Michael Grady, Diarmaid Byrne, Conor Fenlon, Martin Kavanagh(0-4, 2f), Dion Wall, Peter Shaw, James Doyle(1-3, 2f) Ayrton Gleeson( 1-0), Ted Joyce Subs: Shane Walsh, Paddy Doran (in for Roche 54), Peter Kavanagh, Kevin McDonald ( 0-7, 6f), Chris Nolan ( in for Wall 38), Jack Kavanagh ( in for Shaw 60), Eoghan O’Hara, Liam Cummins, Conor Foley