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The long wait continues as Laois misery lingers for Carlow

Kevin Regan
February 18, 2024

Allianz NFL Div 4 Round 3

Laois 2-14

Carlow 0-9

As we drove home past the Rock of Dunamaise and edged towards the periphery of Stradbally, you couldn't help but feel that the starkness of the red tail light convoy in the distance climbing the Windy Gap could only be contrasted by the blue feeling that a fair share of people were radiating in the vehicles ascending it.

In actual fact, most of the time when Carlow face the men in Blue you would tend to have red lights in your head and alarm bells ringing in your ears, but oddly enough this time around it didn't really feel like that on the way over.

And it sure as hell didn't look like that approaching 25 minutes in to the game itself when Carlow were 0-5 to 0-0 in front.

So where did it all go wrong this time? How could it happen again?

To be fair to Laois, in that period of time they kicked a lorry load of wides, some pressured well by Carlow, others unforgiveable.

But by the same token Carlow had two excellent goal chances in the first half. The first of those coming on 20 minutes.

Jordan Morrissey thundered through on goal and was pulled down by Mark Timmons as he took his shot on the edge of the penalty area. Referee Anthony Nolan blew the whistle prematurely, the ball ended up in the net and after some consultation Carlow had to settle for a 21 yard free and bizarrely Mark Timmons escaped a card.

John Murphy with the first proper physical tackle of the game was yellow carded after less than 10 minutes. It was a foul, but a yellow looked harsh, especially when looking at some of the other incidents throughout the game.

That goal bound incident was a huge let off for Laois at the time, but after Darragh Foley converted this free, Morrissey added from play and things were still looking good. And lots of these scores were beautifully constructed moves with Foley, Hulton and co finshing them off.

But all of a sudden Laois began to find the range with Damon Larkin, Brian Byrne and a brace of Niall Dunne points bringing them back to within a point in just four minutes.

Conor Crowley put it back to two and had a fantastic goal chance before the break but his opportunistic effort went the wrong side of the post. Killian Roche slotted a free at the far end and for all Carlow's initial dominance on the score board, they only led by 0-6 to 0-5 at half time.

By the end of the third quarter you could just sense that it was game over. Laois had dismantled the Carlow kickout, they were given their own one and absolutely made hay on the score board. Carlow simply couldn't find any answers.

A brace of Shaun Fitzpatrick points gave Laois the edge while sub Paul Kingston and Mark Barry added to it.

Disaster then struck for Carlow when Damon Larkin found the net and Kevin Swayne did likewise on 55 minutes with Roche and Mark Barry pointing in between. At this stage it was done and dusted completely with Laois leading 2-11 to 0-6.

Carlow's first score of the second half was a good one from Conor Doyle, but it didn't come until the 60th minute. Darragh Foley and Crowley added others before the finish but Mark Barry, Roche and Brian Daly were good for a few down the opposite side and Laois ran out 11 point winners.

Carlow lost Jamie Clarke to a second yellow before full time. The first one again was questionable as he bravely dived full length to make contact with the ball, did so, got hurt in the collision, needed attention and still got a yellow. We're the whole time telling lads not to pull out of tackles and when someone doesn't and gets the ball he still gets a yellow?

It wasn't the winning or losing of the game by any matter of means, the Clarke's will always go hell for leather for everything, it's just in them to do so and it's a great quality to have.

The nature of this league is that it's known for it's unpredictability.

Laois now look odds on for promotion while Carlow are still in a pretty strong position themselves. They have Leitrim and Wexford at home to come, followed by a trip to Longford and a home tie with London.

This one will obviously hurt, but all is not lost yet and this group can and will bounce back.

When you have good characters in the dressing room you have a great chance. If you want evidence of this, just look at our video of Ciaran Cunnigham at half time during last nights game. The epitome of it.

Carlow: Johnny Furey; Colin Byrne, Josh Moore, Mark Furey; Colm Hulton (0-1), Conor Doyle (0-1), Mikey Bambrick; John Murphy, Niall Hickey; Jamie Clarke, Jordan Morrissey (0-1), Aaron Amond; Ross Dunphy, Darragh Foley (0-4, 2f), Conor Crowley (0-2).

Subs: Shane Clarke for Niall Hickey, John Phiri for John Murphy, Dara Curran for Colin Byrne, Eric Molloy for Aaron Amond, Cormac Lomax for Mark Furey.

Laois: Killian Roche (0-3f); Ben Dempsey, Seamus Lacey, James Kelly; Eoin Buggie, Mark Timmons, Brian Byrne (0-1); Conor Heffernan, Damon Larkin (1-1); Kevin Swayne (1-0), Niall Dunne (0-2), Shaun Fitzpatrick (0-2), Mark Barry (0-3,2f), Evan O'Carroll, Niall Corbet,

Subs: Paul Kingston (0-1) for Niall Corbet, Eoin Lowry for Niall Dunne, Ciaran Burke for Larkin, Brian Daly (0-1) for Kevin Swayne.

Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow)