By Mark Jones
DUBLIN — Success and Carlow football haven’t had much of a relationship in recent years, but the Leinster county now has an opportunity to make amends following last weekend’s O’Byrne Cup semifinal victory over Laois at Portarlington.
A deserved 2-11 to 1-13 victory hadn’t looked likely during the first half. However, Carlow managed to overturn an 8-point deficit to reach Sunday’s decider.
A Brian Carbery penalty just before the interval was vital, yet the winners were still 5 points in arrears with just 15 minutes remaining. Again Carbery reduced the gap with his second goal, and then there was time for substitute Brian Kelly to snatch the game’s decisive point.
Carlow’s opponents will be Wicklow, who got the better of Louth by 0-16 to 2-8 at Drogheda. Even without their Rathnew contingent, who are preparing for an All-Ireland club semifinal in March, Wicklow were confident enough to stage a fightback after their midfielder, Shane O’Neill, had been sent off when he was shown a second yellow card.
Two goals by Colin Kelly had given Louth the advantage, but Wicklow, managed by former Dublin goalkeeper John O’Leary, finished strongly with scores by Thomas Burke, Brendan O hAnnaidh, Anthony Nolan and Paddy Dalton.
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Meanwhile, Sligo had a productive weekend in the Connacht football league, defeating Mayo by 1-14 to 2-10 last Saturday before securing another win by 2-11 to 0-8 over Leitrim the following day.
Mayo responded to that initial setback with a 1-15 to 1-11 success over Roscommon in a game that marked the return of James Horan following an absence of a year.