Carlow players celebrating a dramatic win over Kildare.

Carlow players celebrating a dramatic win over Kildare.

Leinster SFC: Carlow continue to rise

Leinster Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final


By Kevin Egan at Bord Na Mona O'Connor Park

The summer arrived in style at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park in Tullamore this afternoon as Carlow recorded their first win over Kildare in a championship game for 65 years, doing so with perhaps the most stylish and impressive performance that Turlough O’Brien’s side has delivered throughout their incredible 18-month long revolution.

In every facet of play, Carlow were simply superb, but none more so than in their shooting. In total nearly 78 minutes were played and in that time every single shot they took yielded a score – not one shot was dropped short, sent wide or saved.

Much of this was down to the purposeful manner in which they used the ball. In the first half they played into the wind and used their pace and power to carry the ball down the throat of the Kildare back line, winning frees that were unerringly sent over the bar by Paul Broderick.

Defensively they got bodies around the ball and dominated the turnover battle and while Kildare edged the battle for primary possession in the middle third, particularly on their own restarts, they struggled to convert those possessions into early ball that their inside forwards could fully exploit.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect was their mental strength, seen in snippets throughout the game. They started well into the breeze, building up an 0-3 to 0-1 lead, but then were rocked by the concession of a goal that was very simply the product of an error from goalkeeper Robbie Molloy.

Paul Cribbin’s shot from 40 metres out dropped short, but a moment of indecision from the Éire Óg man as he weighed up whether to collect it on the bounce or on the full, led to the ball breaking off his chest to Daniel Flynn, who showed a wonderful poacher’s instinct to push the ball into the net directly from the rebound.

At this vital time, they got a slice of luck to put them back on the front foot almost immediately, with a similarly unorthodox goal going their way within two minutes. A long range free from Daniel St. Ledger appeared to go all the way into the Kildare net, seemingly bypassing Darragh Foley’s outstretched arm without taking a significant touch.

The following 10 minutes were evenly contested as Paul Cribbin, Sean Gannon and Keith Cribbin all pointed, but any notion of Robbie Molloy struggling to get over his earlier error was blown away when the Rathvilly man redeemed himself in the best possible way, diving low to save Éanna O’Connor’s penalty after Niall Kelly was fouled when bearing down on goal.

For the closing stages of the first half, Carlow were inspired, producing their best football of the afternoon as they moved five points clear by the interval. Kildare, for their part, seemed unsure how to break down their southerly neighbours, instead taking low percentage pot shots from range that yielded little by way of a positive return. Paul Cribbin struck two superb points from distance, but several other similar attempts led to nothing more than a wave of the arms from the umpires at the Arden Road end of the ground. 

Any notion of a shift in momentum at half time was blown out of the water within 30 seconds of the restart as Carlow won the throw in and set up another attack that ended with Broderick firing over his best score of the game from right on the terrace side touchline.

As the half wore on, Kildare began to win a lot more ball in the middle third, while wing back Kevin Flynn pushed forward to kick two excellent points for the Lily Whites, the same pattern continued in terms of accuracy. Carlow continued to convert every chance and half chance into a score – Ciarán Moran’s skyscraping effort from 50 metres out under pressure could perhaps best be described as a quarter chance - while Kildare’s wides tally moved up to thirteen in all. 

Still Kildare pulled the gap back to three points late on, but they couldn’t repel Carlow’s breaks out of defence, and kept conceding scores to dead balls. Carlow fell back into a very defensive stance, even after Mick O’Grady added a black card to his earlier yellow and saw Kildare reduced to 14 men, but as they proved in the fifth minute of added time, they still posed a threat from deep positions.

The announcement of six minutes of added time heightened the tension among the 5,172 supporters who started to wonder if there might be a twist in this most enthralling of tales, but the game was settled in style when corner back Conor Lawlor broke clear and in the spirit of this Carlow team, turned down the option of an easy fisted point and instead slipped the ball underneath Mark Donnellan for a stunning goal, setting up a Leinster semi-final clash with Laois next month – their first meeting with their neighbours at that stage of the competition since 1943, when Laois prevailed by two points.

Whether Carlow will be more motivated by settling that score from 75 years ago or the Division Four league final last April remains to be seen, but it certainly looks like an occasion not to missed as the Carlow bandwagon gathers more and more followers with every outing.

Scorers for Carlow: Paul Broderick 0-11 (9fs), Daniel St. Ledger 1-0 (free), Conor Lawlor 1-0, Darragh Foley, Seán Gannon and Ciarán Moran 0-1. 

Scorers for Kildare: Daniel Flynn 1-1, Paul Cribbin 0-3, Kevin Feely 0-3 (3fs), Kevin Flynn 0-2, Keith Cribbin 0-1.

CARLOW: Robbie Molloy; Shane Redmond, Chris Crowley, Conor Lawlor; Jordan Morrissey, Daniel St. Ledger, Ciarán Moran; Seán Murphy, Eoghan Ruth; Seán Gannon, Paul Broderick, Diarmuid Walshe; Darragh Foley, Darragh O’Brien, John Murphy.

Subs: Danny Moran for Crowley (49), Cian Lawler for Walshe (54), Lee Walker for O’Brien (64), Barry John Molloy for Foley (70+5, black card).

KILDARE: Mark Donnellan; Peter Kelly, David Hyland, Mick O’Grady; Johnny Byrne, Eoin Doyle, Kevin Flynn; Kevin Feely, Paul Cribbin; Fergal Conway, Keith Cribbin, Paddy Brophy; Niall Kelly, Daniel Flynn, Éanna O’Connor.

Subs: Chris Healy for O’Connor (30), David Slattery for K Cribbin (54), Tommy Moolick for Brophy (61), Eamonn Callaghan for Kelly (67).

REFEREE: David Coldrick (Meath).