'Your hurling career can go by quickly, when you look back you'd like to see medals'

Carlow joint-captains Diarmuid Byrne and Richard Coady are determined to add more silverware this season.

WIN OR LOSE in Sunday’s Joe McDonagh Cup final, both Westmeath and Carlow will be back in action the following weekend in the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-finals against either Wexford or Limerick.

Richard Coady and Diarmuid Byrne lift the trophy Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It’s a quick turnaround and it means the winners and losers will have little time to celebrate their victory or drown their sorrows respectively.

“It’s a big turnaround, it comes around quick enough,” says Carlow joint-captain Diarmuid Byrne.

“You’d be looking forward to playing them at home and testing what you’re like. We’ll get a pool session in on Monday and back on the training pitch on Tuesday.

“When you get to a final of your competition and hope to progress from it, it’s nice to then get a crack at the big teams – the likes of Wexford and Limerick.”

Carlow’s season will be decided in the next 10 days, but regardless of how the next two results go, it’s been a positive campaign. They lifted the Division 2A league title back in March and won four of five championship games so far in the McDonagh Cup.

While Turlough O’Brien’s footballers lost key midfielder Brendan Murphy after they secured promotion from Division 4, Colm Bonnar’s hurlers had to overcome the loss of prolific forward Martin Kavanagh following their rise to Division 1B.

Michael Doyle, Martin Kavanagh, Eoin Nolan and Paul Coady celebrate Michael Doyle, Martin Kavanagh, Eoin Nolan and Paul Coady the league final win Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Kavanagh posted 1-9 when Carlow defeated Sunday’s opponents by seven points in the 2A final, and his departure meant Colm Bonnar had to reshuffle his forward options.

“Ah he’s not that good!” Byrne quips about Kavanagh. “I’m only messing. When you lose a big player like that, it is hard to replace him but we do have a good squad of players there.

“Lads just stepped up when he did leave. There was a place up for grabs and a handful of lads ready to take it. They did step up.

“I’d have great time for Colm Bonnar, I think he’s a super manager, to be honest with you. His training, the set-up, everything is so professional. He runs things 100% to the best of his ability. He doesn’t leave anything untouched coming up to a game. He always has you the best prepared that he can.”

With silverware on the line, the Carlow players are looking forward to a rare run-out in Croke Park.

“It’s always great to get up and have a look at this stadium,” says defender Richard Coady.

“It’s breathtaking when you get out and see the pitch for the first time. It’s great to be up here. You’re up here because you’re in a final, if you weren’t in the final, you wouldn’t be here.

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Niall Mitchell with Paul Doyle and Alan Corcoran Source: Inpho

“In fairness to a few lads on the county board and a few officers there, they’ve really driven it on this year and they’ve really got momentum behind this Carlow Rising thing. It gets people talking. Down there this year, there’s flags going up in businesses and houses that had never seen flags before.

“You’d be walking around town and people would stop you. Everyone down there is getting a huge lift out of both the footballers and the hurlers. We’re after a really great year and, hopefully, we can keep it going a bit longer – we don’t want it to end yet.”

“It’s also the first final for the Joe McDonagh Cup – it’d be unbelievable to be the first name on the cup. Even to be in the final of the first ever Joe McDonagh Cup is great in itself and obviously you want to win it.

“Your hurling career can go by quite quickly and when you look back at it you’d like to see medals, you’d like to see yourself as being successful. Every final you get to, you really want to win it. July 1st is going to be an important day for Carlow and Westmeath.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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