THE SPINE OF his defence is constructed from Kerry and Meath, while he has a combined total of six players from Laois and Carlow.

Yet Kilkenny great DJ Carey has taken that bunch to an elite level, mixed them with players from his own county, Tipperary and Waterford, to produce a side that made hurling history today in Galway.

Tomorrow for the first time, IT Carlow will contest the showpiece event in third-level hurling as they feature in the Fitzgibbon Cup final in Pearse Stadium.

“It’s incredible,” remarked an elated Carey after today’s semi-final win.

“Going five points up with six minutes to go, on the sideline we thought it was over. UCC came back and it was just a savage battle.

“The thing is over the last number of years, we’ve never given up. We’ve got a lot of good wishes from a lot of people who were surprised to see Carlow at this stage.

“But two years ago we were beaten by LIT by a couple of points in the quarter-final, last year we were beaten by one point after extra-time by UCD in the quarter-final.

“We just needed to get over that hurdle. We’ve set out on a journey a few years ago and we’ve done it. But we want to go on and actually win it now.

One for the family album – Martin Kavanagh and his mother Betty celebrate IT Carlow reaching the Fitzgibbon Cup final for the first time after today's semi-final. #fitzgibboncup #hurling – Pic: INPHO/Mike Shaughnessy

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“I don’t think anyone watching this game today could fault either of the teams. We wouldn’t have a massive pick but certainly we’ve a lot of heart.”

Victory today came after a gruelling encounter with extra-time required before IT Carlow saw off UCC. The ordeal took a toll as key players like Kilkenny’s Kevin Kelly and Laois forward Stephen Maher came off injured, while goalscoring hero Colin Dunford from Waterford had played with a hamstring injury.

Posted by on Wednesday, 30 June 2021

“I’m not sure what sort of a team we’ll be able to put out tomorrow,” admitted Carey.

“I didn’t realise until today, you’re only allowed three subs in extra-time, which is I think absolutely crazy in a match at this level. Fellas went down injured, our centre-back Damian Healy went down. We probably needed to take him off but we couldn’t and he still cleared a couple of balls at the end.

“Two lads came off with hamstring injuries, another with a quad. It’s a tough weekend, two matches in two days. But we’re absolutely thrilled, I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”

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