By Conor O’Sullivan
The most pleasing thing for Turlough O’Brien will be that Carlow survived this ‘banana skin’ against London. The defensive system proved its worth with a disciplined performance as Carlow never trailed and survived a late scare against this spirited London side.
Carlow were rewarded for their victory with a home draw against fellow Division 4 side Leitrim. However, an improvement in performance will be needed for the visit of the Connacht men.
Still, the spirit of this panel cannot be questioned as they negotiated an awkward away fixture after seeing two key players sent to the line, Brendan Murphy on a red card and Eoghan Ruth on a black.
Carlow were sluggish in possession early on against a motivated London side playing only their second home game of 2017 at the redeveloped McGovern Park in Ruislip. There was a significant drop in performance from the Wexford and Dublin games with some poor shooting and indiscipline risking a championship exit. Admittedly, the dogfight nature of this do or die tussle and the familiarity between the two sides from their national league encounters contributed to this low-scoring affair.
They may have to negotiate the Leitrim game without Brendan Murphy who was sent off in the 58th minute for a second booking after clashing with London’s Conor O’Neill. At that juncture, Carlow were playing against 14 men after London’s right half-back Jarlath Branagan was dismissed in the 50th minute for a second yellow card following a tussle with Sean Gannon who also received a yellow.
Eoghan Ruth had received a black card in stoppage time at the end of a dour first half for a high tackle on Branagan to leave O’Brien and his backroom staff incensed with referee Niall Cullen who reached for his pocket 11 times on a balmy afternoon in west London.
Paul Broderick was the star player for Carlow with a clinical display at corner forward, finishing with a tally of six points and five of those coming from frees.
The Tinryland clubman struck a glorious free off the ground with his cultured left foot in the opening five minutes. He was guilty of a few wayward efforts in the crossfield breeze but his overall contribution was excellent, dragging defenders out of position and being efficient in possession. Captain Darragh Foley was not far behind him, contributing three points with a fine score from play in the opening passage of play after London’s Killian Butler struck the post.
Robbie Molly replaced Craig Kearney in goal and his long kick-outs ensured Carlow dominated at midfield with Sean and Brendan Murphy displaying their supreme aerial abilities. The centrefield pairing utilised their athleticism and both scored a point each in the first half. London negated this by opting for short kick-outs that gave Carlow time to set their defensive shape.
The Exiles stayed in touch through the left boot of Rory Mason who notched three short-range frees while Carlow managed to keep London’s danger men Liam Gavaghan and former Tyrone All-Star Owen Mulligan scoreless in the first half. A big turning point came midway through the opening period when Gavaghan was penalised for a ground ball when he was in on goal. The Exiles’ captain later struck a close-range effort over for a point. In a tight game, a goal could have condemned Carlow.
Carlow led 0-7 to 0-5 at half time but they were guilty of being wasteful in front of goal themselves when goalkeeper Gavin McEvoy made a fine double save. Danny Moran was first denied after patient build up play by Carlow created the opening for the wing-back. Brendan Murphy then had his rebounded effort smothered before London managed to clear their lines. Darragh O’Brien replaced Alan Kelly early in the second half and contributed with a score in an energetic cameo. Broderick rediscovered his range from frees to give Carlow a three-point cushion before Branagan’s sending off.
But Carlow didn’t push on with the man advantage and Eoin Kelly narrowed the gap to two to restore belief in the home support. John Murphy responded with a well-taken score from 20 metres before Gavaghan’s fourth point and another Mason free meant the sides were separated by just a point after Murphy’s second booking.
London sensed a possible shock was on the cards, however, some fine defending under a series of London high balls and another Broderick free stretched the lead to two points, 0-13 to 0-11, heading into five minutes of stoppage time.
London chased a goal that would have given them victory with full back Shane Redmond fielding a fine catch under pressure. Substitute Adrian Moyles converted a score in the game’s dying embers when aiming for goal but it was not enough as Carlow held on and the relief was palpable among the players and management knowing they had prolonged their summer.
Carlow: R Molloy; C Crowley, S Redmond, C Lawlor; D Moran, D St Ledger, G Kelly; B Murphy (0-1), S Murphy (0-1); E Ruth, D Foley (0-3, 0-2 frees), A Kelly; P Broderick (0-6, 0-5 frees), S Gannon, J Murphy (0-1). Subs: C Moran for E Ruth (36 mins, black card), D O’Brien (0-1) for A Kelly (52 mins), K Nolan for G Kelly (68 mins)
London: G McEvoy; P Butler, Colm Dunne, C O’Neill; J Branagan (0-1), R Jones, Colin Dunne; M Carroll, C Og Greene; E Murray (0-2), L Gavaghan (0-4, 0-1 free), M Gottsche ( 0-1 45); R Mason (0-4 frees), O Mulligan, K Butler. Subs: M McGirr for C Dunne (68 mins), A Moyles for E Murray (68 mins), C Doran for C O’Neill (68 mins), D Moore for O Mulligan (72 mins).
Referee: Niall Cullen (Fermangah)