Colm Bonnar guided Carlow to the Christy Ring Cup title last year.

Colm Bonnar guided Carlow to the Christy Ring Cup title last year.

Carlow eager to reach Division 2A decider

By Cian O’Connell

Carlow manager Colm Bonnar is encouraged by how his developing team has responded since losing their Allianz Hurling League Division 2A opener against Westmeath.

The 2017 Christy Ring Cup champions face Meath in a crucial encounter at Trim this Sunday and Bonnar is hopeful Carlow can reach the decider.

“It is a huge, huge game for us,” Bonnar admits. “We thought that when we were beaten by Westmeath in the first game that we were in serious trouble.

“We went down to Tralee and it was win at all costs to get back into the League and now that we are back in, our goal is to reach the final and we are delighted it is back in our hands again. It is up to us if we can get a win here, that will put us back into a final so it will be all guns blazing for next Sunday.”

Bonnar acknowledges that it is vital for Carlow to maintain the momentum that was generated during an impressive Christy Ring Cup winning campaign.

This League is way more competitive than it was last year.

“When you see what Antrim have done since they went up there, they ran Galway so close and Dublin so close,” Bonnar says.

“They have been playing extremely well, that is the level of competition our boys aspire to. The only way you can get up there is by winning your League.

“This League is way more competitive than it was last year. We had a few games where we could trial a lot of our panelists in games and it is just not possible this year.

“The strength of each team has improved and we are happy that it is back in our own hands after getting an initial shock at the very, very start. We are building, we have a tough game again on Sunday and obviously if we can win that it would put us into a final. If we don't that will be our chance gone.”

Attaining Division 1B status would be a significant boost to Carlow according to Bonnar. “It is something that the players want, they have an ambition to play at the highest level possible,” Bonnar states.

“Obviously we are there or thereabouts at Division 2A, but it is a big step up to Division 1B. The way it is at the moment with six teams in Division 1A and six in Division 1B the top four teams in Division 1B get a chance to play against the bigger teams again in the quarter-finals.

“There are huge incentives to try to get to that level. Players also know if they get up to that other level in terms of preparation and mentality it has to go up another notch or two. That can only be good for a hurler in terms of those challenges that you face to bring your own game on.

Whoever gets up to Division 1B is well capable of holding their own.

“At the moment we are finding the Division we are in very, very competitive and a lot of the teams are capable of beating each other.

“Whoever gets up to Division 1B is well capable of holding their own. It definitely is an ambition, but after our first game against Westmeath our focus was to take it one game at a time to try to keep improving.”

The inaugural Joe McDonagh Cup promises to be stuffed with lively matches too. “Definitely, we would have won some games well in the Christy Ring, while this year I think every game is going to go down to the wire,” Bonnar states.

“We are used to playing the likes of Kerry, Westmeath, Meath, nobody wants to be second best in the League because you will be playing against them again in the Championship. When you add in the likes of Laois and Antrim into the mix it should be good.

“We know the battles we had with Antrim last year and we know that Laois put us out of the Championship last year as well. Every game you'd be capable of winning it as well as losing it. That is how tight it is, a team that gets on a bit of a run and gets a bit of momentum it might take them to a couple of vital victories.

“We are looking forward to that down the road, but our total focus at the moment is trying to get two points on the board against Meath on Sunday.”