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Carlow can get over loss with glamour tie against Tyrone

By Declan Bogue

You imagine the mood in the Carlow dressing room after their defeat to Laois on Sunday would have been sombre.

They had just failed to reach their first provincial final since 1944 and the truth will sting: they had the chances to get a goal or two that would have been enough to get there.

A picture of their players posted on social media by their colourful coach from Newry, Steven Poacher, showed the group licking their wounds and drowning their sorrows later that Sunday.

However bad they might have been feeling on Monday morning, their minds must have pinging with possibilities when the draw for round 2 of the qualifiers was made and they landed a tie with Tyrone, at home, on a Saturday evening at 5pm. What could be more glamorous for them?

It's a curiosity of the game, but Carlow are the only side known to have played Tyrone in a challenge game, which took place last winter and was instructive on many levels for Poacher and the Carlow manager Turlough O'Brien as they drew 3-8 to 1-14.

The level of criticism that followed their defeat on Sunday showed how many cynics had their knives drawn. Carlow are a team that have clearly got up the noses of the establishment, who aren't fond of uppity counties making a game of it or playing a game on their own terms.

There is a huge element of snobbery against them and their style of football that has worked so well.

But consider this; over the last twenty years, you could count their amount of Championship victories on two hands. They always had the measure of Wicklow (2016, 2006, '03, '01) and sporadic wins followed over Louth (2011), Offaly (2005) and Longford (2004).

There was an abundance of horror stories, like the seven goals they shipped to Meath in 2014. Or the Leinster campaign of 2000 when they played three games in a qualifying series and lost every one of them.

But in 2017, they beat Wexford for their first Leinster Championship win in six years. By summer's end they had won three Championship games for the first time in a season since '44.

This year, they secured promotion with a win over Antrim in mid-March, the first time they went up in 33 years.

Polemic shouldn't win the war over facts.

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