Carlow crowned inaugural McDonagh Cup champions
Joe McDonagh Cup Final
CARLOW 2-26 WESTMEATH 1-24
By Michael Devlin at Croke Park
Goals either side of halftime saw Carlow prevail in a high-scoring encounter with Westmeath to become the first ever Joe McDonagh Cup champions.
The sides were nip and tuck for the opening quarter before Chris Nolan then James Doyle struck for the vital goals to give Carlow a lead they weren’t to surrender.
Up front, Denis Murphy was unerring from the dead ball, landing nine frees and a ’65 in an 0-11 haul, while half forwards John Michael Nolan, Paul Coady and Edward Byrne contributed eight points between them.
Protecting that two goal cushion for most of the second half, staunch defending in the Carlow full back line kept Westmeath at bay up until Niall O’Brien’s consolation goal in the final minute.
Eoin Price was the stand out player for Michael Ryan’s side, the midfielder landing six points from play in a fine individual display.
Carlow drew first blood in the opening minute with Edward Byrne pointing after taking a super high catch on the ’45. Price levelled for Kildare a minute later, before Murphy got his first of the day from a ’65.
Aonghus Clarke struck Kildare’s second point in the seventh minute, and Niall Mitchell nudged them ahead minutes later. Carlow replied through Chris Nolan, and the sides were level again.
The lead went back and forth over for the next five minutes, and Westmeath scores from Clarke and Price were matched by Carlow’s Murphy and Nolan, before Colm Bonnar’s men opened up a four point gap. Paul Coady began the run, with Murphy tagging on a free before John Michael Nolan landed two fine scores.
Westmeath answered with two points from Robbie Greville and Derek McNicolas, before Nolan struck over from the left wing to keep Carlow three in front. Byrne then found himself through on goal on the 25 minute mark, but Westmeath midfielder John Gilligan got across to muscle him out.
Another Price score and Allan Devine’s first free of the afternoon brought Westmeath back to within a point, and after a Murphy free at the other end, Devine fired over two more placed balls to tie the game at 11 points each.
As half-time approached, there was still nothing between the teams, with Niall O’Brien cancelling out a Murphy free. Then came the game’s turning point. Aonghus Clarke found himself in space from inside the ’14, but he lashed his effort over the Carlow bar. In the next attack at the other end, Nolan was presented with a similar chance, and he made no mistake, planting the ball in Paddy Carroll’s net.
Within 15 seconds of the start of the second period, Carlow struck for goal again, corner forward James Doyle’s shot sneaking past Carroll’s hurl. Kevin McDonald came up from half back to raise the white flag before another Murphy free put the Barrowsiders seven up after 40 minutes.
Clarke and Devine registered scores to keep Westmeath in the hunt, while Carlow could have moved out of sight had Doyle’s kicked attempt on goal finished on the right side of the post.
Both teams were still making the scoreboard tick, Murphy (2) and Edward Byrne moving Carlow along while Devine popped over another free.
Carlow vice-captain Diarmuid Byrne was the next man to get on the score-sheet, landing a super strike over his shoulder from the Cusack Stand side to put his side eight in front. Scores from Murphy, Doyle and Coady were matched by Westmeath’s Greville, Devine and sub Darragh Clinton as the game neared the hour mark.
Westmeath just couldn’t erode Carlow’s two goal cushion however as the searing conditions in Croke Park were beginning to take effect on the players. Price was powering on though, and he brought Westmeath’s total to 0-20 before Chris Nolan pointed again for Carlow.
Two Devine frees came either side of a goal opportunity for Niall O’Brien, but the corner forward couldn’t get his shot away inside the box. A John Michael Nolan score for Carlow followed, while Price again found his range to keep the deficit at six.
Hopes of a late Westmeath rally were dashed when Derek McNicholas picked up a second yellow on 66 minutes, and Carlow pushed on to add three more scores in as many minutes courtesy of Murphy (2) and Paul Coady.
Price fired over his sixth of the afternoon as the game moved into injury time, and although O’Brien managed to nick a goal back right at the end, it was all in vain as Carlow deservedly took home the silverware.
Scorers for Carlow: Denis Murphy 0-11 (9f 1 ’65), Chris Nolan 1-4, James Doyle 1-1, John Michael Nolan 0-3, Paul Coady 0-3, Edward Byrne 0-2, Diarmuid Byrne 0-1, Kevin McDonald 0-1
Scorers for Westmeath: Allan Devine 0-8 (8f), Eoin Price 0-6, Niall O’Brien 1-1, Aonghus Clarke 0-3, Derek McNicholas 0-2, Robbie Greville 0-2, Niall Mitchell 0-1, Darragh Clinton 0-1
CARLOW: Brian Tracey; Alan Corcoran, Paul Doyle, Michael Doyle; Kevin McDonald, Richard Coady, David English; Jack Cavanagh, Diarmuid Byrne; John Michael Nolan, Paul Coady, Edward Byrne; James Doyle, Denis Murphy, Chris Nolan. Subs: Seamus Murphy for Edward Byrne (66), Richard Kelly for Jack Cavanagh (68), Jack Murphy for Paul Coady (70), Ted Joyce for Chris Nolan (71)
WESTMEATH: Paddy Carroll; Shane Power, Tommy Doyle (c), Liam Varley; Aonghus Clarke, Paul Greville, Derek McNicholas; Eoin price, John Gilligan; Joey Boyle, Robbie Greville, Allan Devine; Niall O’Brien, Niall Mitchell, Ciaran Doyle. Subs: Darragh Clinton for Ciaran Doyle (39), Shane Clavin for Liam Varley (40), Cormac Boyle for Joey Boyle (45) Brendan Doyle for Shane Power (62) Conor Shaw for Niall Mitchell (66)
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork)