Allianz NHL Round 1
Carlow hurlers laid down an early marker for the 2024 season with this 12 point victory over the Kingdom in Austin Stack Park in Tralee on Sunday.
These two sides met twice last year, both in Tralee, with Kerry winning the league encounter & a draw the result in the championship encounter.
Fast forward 12 months & Kerry were a much different side, a number of retirements & players unavailable meant it was a young & different Kerry team this year. To make things worse, Shane Conway was also unavailable on the day. This was not Carlow's problem though & you can only beat what is in front of you.
Carlow fielded a very strong team & took the game by the scruff of the neck from the start. With less than 10 minutes on the clock Carlow had raced in to a 1-5 to no score lead. The goal coming from Chris Nolan & what a goal it was. Gathering the ball out under the stand sideline & not too far from the corner flag, Chris took on a number of men, beat them all & somehow managed to find the back of the net.
One thing noticeable about the goal was the strength & power of Nolan as he burst through on goal. It took Kerry until the 13th minute to get their first score courtesy of Fionnan Mackessy. Carlow continued to pick off scores throughout as Marty Kavanagh, Chris Nolan, Kevin McDonald & Conor Kehoe all raised numerous white flags.
Nolan had 1-5 to his name by half time & he was simply unplayable. Carlow looked to be stronger than Kerry in all departments in the opening half & you got the impression very early on that they came to Tralee for 2 points & nothing else would suffice. They went in at the break leading by 1-14 to 0-7.
In fairness to Kerry they came out & hit 0-12 in the second half, Carlow hitting 2-8 so it was a lot closer affair but really Carlow were always in control. Nolan, Kavanagh & Kehoe again all scoring from play before goal number 2 arrived, a lovely finish to the bottom corner of the net by Fiachra Fitzpatrick after a lovely run & pass by the industrious James Doyle.
Dan Goggin & Brandon Barrett kept the scoreboard ticking over for Kerry & they finished with 0-4 each by the end. Carlow ran in a number of subs in the second half but they continued to press on & keep the gap big enough. Carlow had well wrapped up the game by the time Marty Kavanagh was put through & found the back of the net for goal number 3.
Kavanagh finished the game with 1-8 to his name & his scoring rate for Carlow is truly phenomenal, considering he will only be 30 this year!
Special mention to John Michael Nolan also, a hand like JCB bucket! The only man I've ever seen to rival his club mate big Des Murphy under the high ball, Nolan once again caught a mountain of dropping ball & that alone is an invaluable asset for his side & he deservedly got on the score sheet near the end.
Meath next weekend at home now & they will be boosted by their win over Kildare.
Carlow: Brian Treacy, Paul Doyle, Dion Wall, Jack McCullagh; Tony Lawlor, Kevin McDonald, Fiachra Fitzpatrick(1-0); Conor Kehoe(0-4), James Doyle; John Michael Nolan(0-1), Chris Nolan(1-6), Marty Kavanagh(1-8, 5f); Fiach O' Toole, Jake Doyle(0-1), Sean Joyce.
SUBS: Jon Nolan for O' Toole, John Doyle for Fitzpatrick, Ciaran Kavanagh for Jake Doyle, Niall Bolger for McCullagh, Richard Coady for Chris Nolan.
Referee: Niall Malone(Clare)