Paul Doyle of Carlow lifts the cup after the Joe McDonagh Cup Final match between Carlow and Offaly at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Tyler Miller/Sportsfile.
Paul Doyle of Carlow lifts the cup after the Joe McDonagh Cup Final match between Carlow and Offaly at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Tyler Miller/Sportsfile.

Carlow crowned Joe McDonagh Cup champions after epic final

Joe McDonagh Cup Final


By John Harrington at Croke Park

Carlow are Joe McDonagh Cup champions after a topsy turvy roller-coaster of a final against Offaly.

They showed serious grit to win this game after extra-time considering they lost a four-point lead in four-injury time minutes at the end of normal time.

14-man Offaly hurled heroically to muster that late charge that brought the game to extra-time, and with their full complement restored you would have thought they’d be the most likely victors at that stage.

But Carlow’s resolve didn’t wilt, and they scored the final two points of the match through Diarmuid Byrne and Chris Nolan to claim a famous victory.

It was dramatic end to an extraordinary game and the better team won, but Offaly will have major regrets about the 24 wides that seriously undermined their effort.

Ironically, they started the match very clinically, scoring a goal in the first minute.

Charlie Mitchell capitalised on some hesitancy in the Carlow defence to run onto a ball that should have been cleared and then showed great wrist-work to bat the ball one-handed past Brian Tracey.

Carlow’s response was impressive, and they were level by the seventh minute when Boland swung over a sweet score after points from Martin Kavanagh (free) and James Doyle.

It could have been worse for Offaly. They were cut open on a couple of occasions in the early running and but for two excellent Stephen Corcoran saves from Kavanagh and Nolan would have conceded a couple of goals.

Those chinks in Offaly’s defensive armour were ultimately exposed later in the half though by Carlow’s powerful full-forward Paddy Boland.

After 29 minutes he did brilliantly to claim a long delivery and smashed the ball to the net from close range. A minute later he landed a point and Carlow were four points to the good, 1-9 to 1-5.

Boland was on fire now, and he won a penalty moments later when he once again claimed a long delivery and was hauled to the ground by Offaly defender Dara Maher who was red-carded by referee Thomas Walsh who adjudged Maher pulled Boland’s face-guard.

Martin Kavanagh buried the resultant penalty, and Carlow now looked very much in control of the tie, leading by 2-9 to 1-5.

Offaly did manage to score the last two points of the half, but trailing by five points and down a man, they were facing an uphill battle coming out for the second-half.

When they reduced the deficit to three points just two minutes into the second-half after points from David Nally (2) and Adrian Cleary, the Offaly supporters found their voice, but the comeback would take some time to fully materialise.

Carlow were able to do enough to keep the Faithful county at arm’s distance for most of the second-half, and when a Martin Kavanagh point pushed them six ahead after 58 minutes it looked like they’d a big enough buffer to see the game out.

They were still four ahead when the game ticked into extra-time, but 14-man Offaly refused to go away and in those four minutes of additional time did brilliantly to draw level.

An Eoghan Cahill free was followed by points by Eimhin Kelly and Paddy Clancy, and then the excellent Cahill, Offaly’s best player on the day, drew his team level with another classy score in the fourth and final minute of extra-time.

Extra-time must have been nerve-shredding for both sets of supporters because the balance of power swung this way and that as the ball pinged from one end of the field to the other with dizzying regularity.

Carlow had edged a point to the good by half-time in extra-time, but when Jason and Killian Sampson struck two inspirational points in the second period of extra-time to now put Offaly one point clear, they looked like the team with all the momentum.

Credit to Carlow, though, they somehow found the resolve to dig deep again as Diarmuid Byrne drew his team level with a long-ranger and then Nolan won the game with a typically classy point.

Scorers for Carlow: Martin Kavanagh 1-8 (5f, 1 65), Paddy Boland 1-4, Chris Nolan 0-4, James Doyle 0-3, Jon Nolan 0-3, John Michael Nolan 0-2, Conor Kehoe 0-2, Jack Kavanagh 0-2, Diarmuid Byrne 0-1, Kevin McDonald 0-1 (f),

Scorers for Offaly: Eoghan Cahill 0-8 (3f), Cillian Kiely 0-6 (2f), David Nally 0-5 (1 65, 1 sideline, 1 free), Charlie Mitchell 1-1, Adrian Cleary 0-3, Eimhin Kelly 0-2, Paddy Clancy 0-2, Jason Sampson 0-1, Killian Sampson 0-1, Sam Bourke 0-1, Joey Keenaghan 0-1

OFFALY: Stephen Corcoran; Dara Maher, Ciarán Burke, Ben Conneely; David King, Jason Sampson, Killian Sampson; Sam Bourke, David Nally; Cillian Kiely, Jack Clancy, Adrian Cleary; Charlie Mitchell, Brian Duignan, Eoghan Cahill. Subs: Eimhín Kelly for Sam Bourke (47), Paddy Clancy for Brian Duignan (50), Shane Dooley for Cillian Kiely (58), Joey Keenaghan for David Nally (68), Paddy Delaney for Joey Keenaghan (ft), Joey Keenaghan for Jack Clancy (75), John Murphy for Joey Keenaghan (85)

CARLOW: Brian Tracey; Paul Doyle, Conor Lawlor, Jack McCullagh; ; Fiachra Fitzpatrick, Diarmuid Byrne, Jack Kavanagh; Conor Kehoe, Kevin McDonald; Jon Nolan, Chris Nolan, James Doyle; John Michael Nolan, Martin Kavanagh, Paddy Boland. Subs: Fiach O’Toole for John Michael Nolan (64), Richard Coady for Jack Kavanagh (73), Niall Bolger for Kevin McDonald (86), JP Treacy for Jon Nolan (88)

Ref: Thomas Walsh (Waterford)