'We don’t need condescension dripping from pens or keyboards. We’re very happy to be on that pitch with Dublin'

Turlough O’Brien was in a defiant mood after Carlow’s defeat to Dublin.

THE IDEA OF introducing a two-tiered inter-county football championship appears to be gaining serious support in recent times.

Jason Sherlock and Jim Gavin look on Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Just last weekend, London manager Ciaran Deely was the latest voice in favour of bringing in a ‘B’ championship to cater for the bottom 16 counties in the country.

“It doesn’t make sense that (last year) London, who are ranked 32nd, and Mayo, who are ranked second, were playing against each other,” said Deely in the aftermath of London’s three point loss to Leitrim in the Connacht quarter-final.

But try tell that to any Carlow supporter that was inside O’Moore Park on Saturday night as they went toe-to-toe with the reigning Leinster and All-Ireland champions for a good 50 minutes.

Try explain to them that their team ought to be kept away from the super-powers, to fight for a second-rate prize in a competition nobody wants to be in.

A heavy spotlight was shone on Carlow football over the last two weeks. It was accepted they had no chance of beating Dublin, but there was a palpable giddiness across the county as they prepared for the high-profile game.

Jim Gavin and Turlough O'Brien Source: James Crombie/INPHO

We even got to know the characters involved. Turlough O’Brien kicked things off with a guest appearance halfway into the Sunday Game, while Kerry legend Colm Cooper sat beside him and called Brendan Murphy “a class player” that “would be on Kerry and Dublin teams.”

Daniel St Ledger spoke at length about how much he enjoys county football on Second Captains, while Murphy told Off The Ball about his fascinating career path which saw him flirt with careers in Aussie Rules and, to a lesser extent, rugby.

And their game was televised live on Sky Sports to an Irish and UK audience. Carlow on Sky Sports, going head-to-head with Cristiano Ronaldo and the Champions League final.

These past two weeks even taught us about O’Brien’s love for cycling, Paul Broderick’s exceptional free-taking and Seán Murphy’s lightning speed. RTÉ’s Brian Carthy colourfully described Murphy as “the Usain Bolt of Gaelic football” on his Radio 1 commentary.

Brendan Murphy dejected after receiving a red card Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The Carlow footballers have spent long enough playing football in front of a man and his dog. This was their night on Broadway. And they showed no signs of stage fright.

Carlow finished a full 26 places behind Dublin in the league this spring. Some analysts suggested it was unfair to subject weaker counties to serial beatings in the provincial championship every year.

“I don’t think pundits should shed any crocodile tears for Carlow or any of the lower-ranked counties on a day like today,” said a defiant O’Brien afterwards.

“We don’t need condescension dripping from pens or keyboards. We’re very happy to be on that pitch with Dublin. We gave a very, very good account of ourselves.

Turlough O'Brien Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“I think a lot of counties have fallen foul of the general consensus that it’s a foregone conclusion when you play Dublin – they’re beaten before they start.

“I hope today gives other Leinster counties, who would consider themselves to be higher ranked than Carlow, that they would rise to the challenge when they do meet Dublin.”

At half-time, Turlough O’Brien’s men went in trailing by just 0-8 to 0-5 and were well in the game.

Had talisman Brendan Murphy avoided collecting a second yellow card after an off-the-ball tangle with Jonny Cooper, they’d have ran Dublin a damn sight closer down the stretch.

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“The numerical advantage really told against us,” continued the Carlow boss.

“The lads worked their socks off. We had no issue with lads throwing in the towel or anything like that – I don’t think Dublin had a shot on goal in the whole game.

Sean Murphy with Michael Fitzsimons Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“We didn’t come up here to keep the scoreline down – we came up here to compete, to see where it would take us, how we’d measure up against Dublin. To see what potential there is in the team.”

Carlow deserved their shot at Dublin. They’re a small, proud county catering for both hurling and football with limited resources.

“100% of pundits would have said Dublin are going to win this at a canter. It didn’t turn out that way,” added O’Brien.

“Maybe in the end they put a bit of daylight between us but that was the advantage of the extra man. I think Carlow showed there is plenty of football in them.”

It’s worth asking: Are we sure a two-tiered championship is good for the game?


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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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