An absence of belief cost Carlow the opportunity of a shock victory over neighbours Laois to determine Dublin’s opponents in the Leinster SHC quarter-final.
That was the honest assessment of manager Kevin Ryan, who admitted that he knew the game was over with 25 minutes remaining.
That might sound strange given that only six points separated the sides (1-13 to 0-10), but in those opening 15 minutes of the second half, Laois scored 1-4 to turn a one-point deficit into what was ultimately their winning margin.
Carlow couldn’t muster a response and, according to Ryan, the players’ heads had dropped.
“I’d say we hurled really well for a long time in the first half and then we didn’t hurl in the second half,” said Ryan. “They got a grip on it in the first 10 minutes of the second half and we kind of gave it to them after that I felt.
“I thought mentally we dropped. I felt on the line, 10 minutes into the second half, the game was over and I’d say that feeling was through the field — and we were only three or four points down at that stage.
“You could feel it, no matter what you did to change it, once you get to that stage you’re in trouble. It wasn’t lack of commitment or anything like that. I thought we were mentally weak.”
Carlow’s power and industry provided Laois with problems in the first half and earned the underdogs a 0-7 to 0-6 interval lead, despite them having played into a very strong wind.
Laois goalkeeper and poc fada champion Eoin Reilly sent his puck-outs raining down behind the Carlow half-back line, but the tactic paid no dividends, with Laois having to rely on the accuracy of Matthew Whelan from placed balls for four of their points.
At the other end, Denis Murphy contributed four points from similar opportunities, and Carlow were full value for their half-time lead, although Laois would have been very concerned by their seven wides in that initial period.
Their inaccuracy remained a feature of the game, as they shot 10 more wides after the resumption, but crucially, they burst out of the traps in the second period after the resumption, hitting that 1-4 to put themselves in complete control.
Joe Fitzpatrick’s 40th minute goal was the critical score, as the midfielder — the game’s outstanding player — collected a hand-pass from Willie Hyland before unleashing a thunderous shot that gave Frank Foley no chance.
Both sides had penalties saved and Reilly was forced into two smart saves from Robbie Foley and Doyle, but Laois’s quarter-final date with Dublin never looked under serious threat.
“I’d describe it as a Jekyll and Hyde performance, really,” said Laois boss Niall Rigney afterwards. “Our first half was poor. We seemed to be very nervous on the ball.
“It’s our first championship game this year and we’re not used to the favourite’s tag if we’re honest about it. We’re all just happy to get over the line. I’m very proud with the way the lads applied themselves in the second half. They were very solid and focused and overall we’re happy to get the result.”
– leinster shc