A late Galway surge made the final 1-24 to 1-18 scoreline look more comfortable than Sunday’s Leinster championship opener actually was. Plucky Carlow hurled with plenty of spirit and no little amount of skill and left Galway manager Micheál Donoghue with plenty to ponder ahead of Wexford’s upcoming visit to Salthill.
"It's two points on the board now, and we go away obviously with workings,” Donoghue stated afterwards. “But similar to every other game, we keep saying the next one is the most important one.
"We came in with no illusions as to the challenge posed and I think a lot of people outside maybe had totally written Carlow off.”
The crowd of 6,097 in Pearse Stadium were well aware of Carlow’s prowess at the end of an even first quarter in which Galway fluffed their lines too often when attempting to build attacks through the lines from deep.
“I think on any given day when you let the opposition work harder than you, when they are very strong on their puck outs, and their scoring efficiency was very high, if you add all of those things together, it is always going to be a tough challenge,” Donoghue admitted.
“Equally, I thought we went in at half-time six up, and probably still didn't have that fluency in our game and kept letting them come back in."
Galway had built up a 0-10 to 0-5 lead by the 23rd minute as Conor Cooney and Conor Whelan were forced to come deep to avail of scoring opportunities, while Niall Burke assumed the placed ball duties in Joe Canning’s absence.
Carlow refused to buckle though, as Marty Kavanagh, Conor Nolan, and James Doyle proved a more than capable inside forward line, and when Galway struck for a goal through Cooney in the opening moments of the second half, Conal Bonnar’s side replied almost immediately when Nolan fired to the net.
Carlow to their credit then kept with Galway score for score throughout the second half and only trailed by three with less than 10 minutes to play. Cathal Mannion’s continued good form in a deeper role helped Galway stumble over the finishing line, though, and with Joseph Cooney and Johnny Glynn still to come back into the mix, Galway will be glad of the week’s break to work on a gameplan to overcome Wexford.
“I think we need to work on our decision-making,” Donoghue said after a contest in which his side had hit 13 wides. “We’ve talked about that, and some of the shot selection was poor. I think the debutants did well though.
“I think we probably collectively struggled as a whole as a defensive unit, but I think it got a bit better in the second half. But look, as I said, we will go away now with workings and Wexford now is very much in our focus.”
GALWAY: C Callanan; J Grealish (0-1 ), R Burke, A Harte; P Mannion (0-1 ), G McInerney, K Hussey; C Mannion (0-3 ), D Burke (0-1 ); N Burke (0-6fs ), J Flynn (0-3 ), B Concannon (0-1 ); C Whelan (0-4 ), C Cooney (1-3 ), D Glennon (0-1 ). Subs: J Coen for Glennon (50 ), P Killeen for R Burke (54 ), J Hanbury for Hussey (54 ), S Loftus for Grealish (68 ).
CARLOW: B Tracey; K McDonald, P Doyle, M Doyle; E Nolan, D English, R. Coady; J Kavanagh (0-1 ), S Whelan; JM Nolan (0-1 ), M Kavanagh (0-11, 6fs ), E Byrne; J Doyle (0-1 ), S Murphy (0-2 ), C Nolan (1-2 ). Subs: D Byrne for Whelan (51 ), T Joyce for JM Nolan (63 ), R Smithers for J Kavanagh (66 ), Jon Nolan for Byrne (68 ).