IT WAS a familiar tale and the end result was not unexpected. Kilkenny would put in a fair effort, live with the opposition for whatever length of time before fading away and losing.
Scorers: Carlow – Thomas Walsh (2-3); Cormack Mullins (2-2); Ciaran Pender (1-2); Darragh Foley (0-3, frees); Sean Gannon, Paul Cashin, Gary Nolan (0-1 each). Kilkenny – Graham Lawlor (0-8, six frees).
The general outline of the story of the season's opener, the O'Byrne Cup against Carlow in Dr Cullen Park on Sunday, could have been written before a ball was even kicked.
Without meaning to paint a home town picture of the match, it would have to be said that Kilkenny were doing well for about 45 minutes against, it has to be added, far from sparkling opposition.
Indeed, during the opening 10 minutes of the second half the poorly prepared but gutsy visitors – they had only a few training sessions together – out-scored the opposition by 0-2 to 0-1 to get within striking distance (0-6 to 1-7). The game was warm, if far from on fire.
Then bang, it all went wallop. This was at a time when Carlow looked slightly edgy if far from in any danger of losing. A ball was lashed from the winners defence and it dropped from the sky about 40 metres almost in front of the Kilkenny goal at the Dublin road end.
Two defenders charged at the arriving ball and took off into the sky in a determined bid to win it. They collided and ended up in a heap on the ground.
The ball was knocked forward by Carlow's very impressive Thomas Walsh to Cormac Mullins, who released the speedy Ciaran Pender to attack the unprotected 'keeper.
Game ran away
A goal was the result. Carlow jumped 2-7 to 0-6 clear. There and then the game ran away from Kilkenny. A few minutes later Cormac Mullins charged up the left and cut in from the end line before lashing a powerful shot into the net from a testing angle.
The visitors were on the floor. From here to the finish it was all about the size of the dividing margin. During the closing quarter or so Carlow's powerfully built and impressive full-forward, Thomas Walsh caused awful problems and scored his entire tally of 2-3.
Carlow, who dominated early on without reflecting it on the scoreboard, were probably flattered by the end result. Sure, they had fine players in Paul McElligott, Enda Nolan, Darragh Foley and the trio on the full-forward line – Mullins, Walsh and Pender – but they took an awful long time to get their act together.
They play the winners of the Meath/UCD match which was called off because of the weather while Kilkenny slip into the Shield in which they will face the losers from the same clash. The schedule suggests Sunday will be the date, but that is subject to change because of the weather. Kilkenny will enjoy home advantage.
While Carlow owned the ball during most of the opening quarter when the opposition hardly got up the field, they didn't make too many gains. They had points to show from Ciaran Pender, Darragh Foley (free) and Cormack Mullins for 13 minutes of decent work. The visitors defence was dogged, and Thomas Kehoe and Seoirse Kenny put in some magnificent work.
Kilkenny didn't create a chance until the 17th minute, but they kicked it wide. They got off the scoring mark in the 21st minute when their lone scorer Graham Lawlor converted a free off the ground following a foul on David Prendergast.
The big divider
Within a minute Carlow had the ball in the net at the other end. Kilkenny were penalised for a rash tackle about 35 metres on the left. Thomas Walsh took the free quickly and sent Cormack Mullins racing away into space towards goal. The Eire Og man's first shot smashed against the left upright, but he tucked away the rebound smartly (1-3 to 0-1).
The score was the big divider during the half, the end of which was reached with Carlow showing 1-6 to 0-4 in front. All the losers scores were from frees by the fine kicking Lawlor.
When Kilkenny dug out two points through Lawlor after the change, there was a good look to their play for a while. However, once they concede a second goal the match ran away from them as Carlow picked up the pace appreciably.
Along with those already mentioned, the losers had good players in Emmet Vereker, Paddy Raftice and Ciaran Foran.
Kilkenny – David Garvey (Glenmore); Thomas Kehoe (James Stephens), Seoirse Kenny (St Patrick's), Declan Grennan (Tullogher-Rosbercon); John Cullinane (Thomastown), Ciaran Foran (Glenmore), Paddy Raftice (Mullinavat); Emmet Vereker (Glenmore), Sean Mooney (St Patrick's); Stephen Duggan (Mullinavat), J.J. Dunphy (Dunnamaggin), Michael Saunders (Danesfort); David Prendergast (Thomastown), James Culleton (Mullinavat), Graham Lawlor (Railyard). Subs – Paul Donnelly (Railyard) for J.J. Dunphy; Tommy Maher (Dunnamaggin) for J. Cullinane; Ger Purcell (Windgap) for Saunders; John Mackey (Windgap) for Duggan; John Sheehan for Foran.
Carlow – T. O'Reilly; K. Nolan, T. Bolger, B. Kavanagh; P. McElliott, J.P. Moore, E. Nolan; M. Clowry, D. Foley; E. Finnegan, S. Gannon, D. Bambrick; C. Mullins, T. Walsh, C. Pender. Subs – P. Cashin for J.P. Moore; A. Kelly for D. Bambrick; S. Mernagh for M. Clowry; G. Nolan for S. Gannon; B.J. Molley for B. Kavanagh.
Referee – B. Hickey (Kildare).