Mullally hails character of Carlow hurlers
By John Harrington
Carlow manager Tom Mullally was hugely proud of the character his team showed to defeat Offaly after extra-time in the Joe McDonagh Cup Final.
Having let slip a four-point lead in injury-time of normal time, it looked like Carlow had missed their opportunity when 14-man Offaly forced the game into extra-time.
But Mullally’s men dug deep to come with a late charge of their own in the second-half of extra-time to win a thrilling game by a single point.
“For the panel and for the county, there's a huge amount of pride there,” he said.
“They produced an excellent performance over the course of the normal 70 minutes and then there were character questions because momentum had swung Offaly's way and we had to answer those questions in the additional time and we just got across the line.
“That's the nature of the contest that it was, it was always going to boil down to not disappearing or hiding. Huge credit is due to our players for coming through that contest against an excellent Offaly side.
“Momentum had swung to Offaly and it was just about us realising this was the start of another game as such. So we tried to make that clear because lads can lose sight of that. We had two halves still to play and that was crucial to us that we got our heads clear.
“To be fair to this group of players we have, they've shown that character all year long. I had no doubts about their ability to do that.
“Every player on this panel is proud to be a Carlow man. They're proud of their involvement with this team. We're so proud of all of them too and their contribution over the course of the year. I can't state enough how proud they are to play for Carlow.”
Carlow now advance to the All-Ireland SHC preliminary quarter-final against whichever team finishes third in the Leinster SHC.
At the moment that team is Dublin, and Mullally says his team will relish the opportunity to test themselves at that level after they’ve celebrated their McDonagh Cup triumph.
“We put everything we have into this competition so we're rightly going to celebrate it,” he said. “That's us respecting the competition because we put so much into it.
“Yes, there is a qualifying game to play and we'll assess that later in the week once the fog has lifted from our heads. We have superstars now who need to get back grounded by next weekend and realise the challenge that's ahead.
“Whoever it is, if it ends up being Dublin, then that's going to be a massive step-up for us. But it's one where we'd like to know where we're at too. That's important, it gives us an indication where we're at and where we need to go to.”
Offaly manager, Johnny Kelly, was understandably deflated after the game and admits it’ll be a challenge to lift his players again for the challenge of playing the third placed team in Munster in the All-Ireland SHC preliminary quarter-final.
“The first thing to say is heartiest congratulations to Carlow,” he said. “That was an exceptional game of hurling and it would be remiss of me not to congratulate them on a fabulous victory for their manager and entire team.
“It was a brilliant game of hurling and we're obviously disappointed, gutted to be honest, to come out of this with a one-point loss. It's tough to take.
“This particular bunch of men have worked extremely, extremely hard. The sacrifices that they've made, the injuries they've taken, the effect it has on their own private life to make that sacrifice to play for the county, it's amazing and humbling to be part of a group like this.
“We are rightly sick. It's not easy to lose a game of that quality. But, again, you have to be manly and be able to take it on the chin and move forward and somehow find a way to get guys back in and motivated next week because we play a game in three weeks' time against the third placed team in Munster. So it's a tough station we're in at the moment.”