Carlow manager Pat English admitted he was a relieved man to secure a two-point win over a Derry side he believes are the most improved team in Ireland.
English described Tom McLean’s rejuvenated Oak Leafers as a huge step up in class from London or Wicklow and said he was delighted to come away with a hard earned win.
I have said all along that Derry are the most improved team in the countryCarlow manager Pat English
“The opposition we’ve been playing from the start of the league until now, Derry are a big step up from that,” explained the Carlow manager, “We played the two weaker teams and I have said all along that Derry are the most improved team in the country, at any grade, when it comes to hurling.
“Derry are a big, strong physical team who can hurl and all credit to them. If they get a result next week against Wicklow - which they will do - they could be in a league final, so fair play to them. This is a tough result, a good result for Carlow. We put in a good performance. It is hard to come here to Celtic Park and get a win, get a performance so we will go home happy.”
English admitted Seamus Murphy’s goal one minute before half-time had been crucial to his side’s victory.
“It would have been a big difference going in four points down compared to the point down that we were. No, Derry played a good brand of hurling, they are strong and well able to hurl. Credit to them. We were at the ‘pin of our collar’ to get a result.
“Yes (it was an improved second half), but we want to be stepping it up from the first whistle, not the 37th or 38th and again, I credit that to Derry, they did their job. We have a lot of work to do on breaking ball, work to do on picking it and getting control of it first time but we’ll work on that, we have a bit of time now.
“We could have put a bit of distance but that is credit to our opposition. They came out in the second half, against the wind, and scored two early points to go three points up so all of a sudden it wasn’t going to be the easy second half that maybe some of our players thought it would be and it took us 10 minutes get on par with Derry. We committed a couple of stupid frees and kept Derry in touch with us and two points in a game of hurling is nothing.
“I am a relived man. We came here to do a job and we did a job but it was very tough.”