Leinster Senior Football Championship Round One
Wicklow 2-12 Carlow 0-10
By Paul Keane at Echelon Park, Aughrim
A strong second-half performance elevated Wicklow to a convincing Leinster SFC victory in front of their home fans, securing a quarter-final clash with Kildare in a fortnight.
Oisin McConville’s side, Allianz League Division 4 finalists just last weekend, took a while to get going but eventually moved ahead following a Malachy Stone goal late in the first-half and remained in pole position from there on.
Eoin Darcy added a second goal for the hosts late on, bringing his overall tally to 1-2, while Kevin Quinn impressed again with four points in front of 2,000 in the local derby.
Wicklow finished five points ahead of Carlow in the Division 4 table and league form proved a reliable indicator of Championship progress on this occasion with Niall Carew’s Barrowsiders now set to compete next in the Tailteann Cup.
Darragh Foley struck four points for the visitors but the scores dried up on them in the second-half with just a solitary Jamie Clarke point in that period until Darragh Foley and Colm Hulton added consolation scores in injury-time.
Fatigue was always going to be the concern for Wicklow just eight days after coming up short of Sligo at Croke Park in the Allianz League Division 4 final.
Boss McConville made a series of alterations to his starting lineup, drafting in Paul McLoughlin, Karl Furlong, Aaron Murphy and Zach Cullen with Jacques McCall, Tom Maher, Darragh Fitzgerald and Andy Maher making way.
Aside from heavy legs, Wicklow were also playing into the stiff crosswind initially while Carlow set up with Ciaran Moran, who wore number 11, as their sweeper in front of the full-back line.
Wicklow found the going difficult to begin with and slipped three points behind approaching the quarter-hour mark as Carlow opened up a 0-4 to 0-1 lead.
Captain Foley, on the occasion of his 150th appearance for Carlow, curled over a beauty from long range while Ross Dunphy, Hulton and Jordan Morrissey split the posts for the visitors too, Morrissey’s 13th minute score a real eye catcher.
It amounted to an impressive start from Carlow who struggled in Division 4 of the league and finished sixth in the table with just two wins in the campaign.
Crucially, they began that competition with a draw against Wicklow while they also defeated the Garden County by four points when the neighbours last met in the Leinster championship in 2016.
Wicklow finally upped the ante in the 10 minutes or so approaching half-time, outscoring Carlow by five points to claim a 1-5 to 0-6 lead at the interval.
It was a significant turnaround and Wicklow brought it about despite losing Cillian McDonald to a black card for a cynical trip.
Kevin Quinn and Mark Kenny kicked the points during the mini blitz late in the half while defender Stone struck the goal in first-half stoppage time when he capitalised on a defence splitting pass over the top before finishing low to the far corner from the left of the danger area.
There were only three scores registered in the third quarter and while the fare was poor Wicklow weren’t complaining as they stretched their lead with all three of those scores.
Quinn, Kenny and Darcy, from a free, were the players with the points for Wicklow.
Carlow, now playing into the wind, were penned back into their own half for long spells and when they did carve a couple of chances, they were out of luck with Josh Moore and Conor Doyle both hitting shots back off the woodwork.
Leading by 1-8 to 0-6 with 15 minutes to go, it was Wicklow’s game to lose but they made sure of their progress with further scores from Padraig O’Toole, Darcy and Murphy before the latter two combined for Darcy’s 69th minute goal.
That Darcy goal summed up Carlow’s day as goalkeeper Ciaran Cunningham had left his goals to help out in open play when Wicklow worked a move that ended with Darcy slammed the ball home to an empty net.
Scorers for Wicklow: Eoin Darcy 1-2 (1f), Kevin Quinn 0-4 (1f), Malachy Stone 1-0, Mark Jackson 0-2 (2fs), Mark Kenny 0-2, Padraig O’Toole 0-1, Gearoid Murphy 0-1.
Scorers for Carlow: Darragh Foley 0-4 (3fs), Colm Hulton 0-3, Jordan Morrissey 0-1, Ross Dunphy 0-1, Jamie Clarke 0-1.
Wicklow: Mark Jackson; Malachy Stone, Paul McLoughlin, Eoin Murtagh; Karl Furlong, Patrick O’Keane, Zach Cullen; Dean Healy, Padraig O’Toole; Cillian McDonald, JP Hurley, Arran Murphy; Mark Kenny, Kevin Quinn, Eoin Darcy.
Subs: Craig Maguire for Hurley 40-45, Gearoid Murphy for Aaron Murphy 45, Tom Moran for Furlong 59, Fintan O’Shea for Cullen 63, Cian O’Sullivan for Quinn 68, Jacques McCall for McDonald 69.
Carlow: Ciaran Cunningham; Shane Buggy, Mikey Bambrick, Liam Roberts; Seanie Bambrick, Mark Furey, Shane Clarke; Jordan Morrissey, Conor Doyle; Josh Moore, Ciaran Moran, Jamie Clarke; Ross Dunphy, Darragh Foley, Colm Hulton.
Subs: Niall Hickey for Furey h/t, Jonah Dunne for Roberts 53, Eric Molloy for Dunphy 56, Dara Curran for S Bambrick 71.
Referee: Barry Tiernan (Dublin)