CARLOW exited the 2019 Towns Cup on Sunday after being undone by the accurate mauling from visitors Kilkenny.
Kilkenny came to Oak Park backed by a current strong vein of form in Leinster League Division 1A. In contrast, Carlow have hit a rocky patch in Division 1B.
But the Oak Park side had home advantage and had already beaten Kilkenny 26-12 in the South East Cup this season. This was a clash that could have gone either way. Two fully fired up sides took the field but unfortunately for Carlow they dropped the Kilkenny kick-off and were put under immediate pressure.
From the resultant scrum Kilkenny ran hard at the home team and stayed around the Carlow 22 for the next five minutes.
Eventually the ball was whipped across the Kilkenny backs and hard running centre Liam Caddy got through a gap for a try which he converted himself.
Carlow responded well to this early setback and the next 10 to 15 minutes were played well into Kilkenny territory. In the 12th and 14th minutes Kilkenny were twice penalised within kicking sight of their posts. Twice Carlow’s Ritchie Whyte got out his kicking tee. The first attempt was narrowly wide and the second bounced back off a post. This didn’t look like being Carlow’s day.
But almost immediately Carlow attacked again. Outhalf Fiach Millward delivered quick ball. Full-back Darragh Mullins made ground on the right and passed to winger Fionnan Burke who ran through his opposite number to score in the corner. Whyte’s conversion from out wide tied the game at seven points each.
Kilkenny responded by tucking the ball up their jerseys and setting up mauls all over the park, but especially in the Carlow 22. This may not have looked pretty to the Oak Park faithful but it frustrated Carlow players leading to penalties and sinbins.
The distribution of the penalties tells a lot about this game. Overall the referee awarded 13 penalties to the visitors and only six to the home side. Of the six awarded to Carlow, three were in the first 15 minutes and two in the final 10 minutes. In between Carlow were hit with 13 penalties and two sin binnings.
Twenty five minutes into the game Caddy kicked a 35 metre penalty to put the visitors 10-7 ahead. Ten minutes from half time Carlow’s best player Ross Elmes was yellow carded. For the remainder of the half the visitors repeatedly mauled towards the Carlow line getting penalty after penalty. The home side defended for their cup lives but on the stroke of half time a Kilkenny maul that had zigzagged in from fully 18 metres got over the line with second row Liam Phelan getting the touchdown. Caddy again converted to give his side a 17- 7 half time lead.
Unfortunately for the home side, the visitors began the second half just as they ended the first. Kilkenny’s strong lead buoyed their confidence and standard of play. Caddy kicked another penalty. Carlow suffered another sinbinning when centre David McDermott was yellow carded and the visitors got another mauled try following a corner lineout. Substitute Conor Dempsey got the touchdown but Caddy failed to convert for the first time in the match.
Trailing 25-7, Carlow raised the siege and started to dominate the visitors in the final quarter. All five subs came on and brought new energy to the game. At last the home team started to get penalty awards and in one award Ross Elmes took a quick tap and burst through for a try which was converted by Ritchie Whyte.
Strong runs by Carlow sub James Nolan were punching holes in the visibly tiring visitor defence. One such run was carried on by John Murphy who passed to David McDermott to score a try in the corner. Again Ritchie Whyte landed a touchline conversion to put Carlow within a score of Kilkenny.
Given how momentum had shifted, if the game had played on for another five minutes they might even have scored again. But the referee blew for full time after only three minutes of stoppage time. It was Kilkenny’s day and Kilkenny’s name went into the draw for the Towns Cup second round which took place in the Oak Park clubhouse following the match.
Carlow: Darragh Mullins, Fionnan Burke, Dave McDermott, Ritchie Whyte, Jeff McDermott, Fiach Millward, Isaac Daly, Larry McGrath, John Farrell, Ross Byrne, Wes Shirley, Thomas Whitney, John Murphy, Martin Mullins, Ross Elmes. Subs: John Lyons, James Nolan, Sam Cullen, John Whyte, Sam Dunne.
Kilkenny: Jack Walsh, Hugh Lane, Liam Caddy, Padraic Mahon, Lyndon Brannigan, Jake McDonald, Dardan McGrath, Shane Roche, Martin Leahy, Simon O’Shea, Andrew Nijenhuis, Liam Phelan, Gerry Dunne, Jason Connolly, Wes Carter. Subs: Conor Dempsey, Ossie Aro, Ronan Moran, Tadhg Butler, Robert Walsh
Meanwhile, Mullingar gave a walkover to Tullow in Sunday’s other local Towns Cup fixture.
The draw for the second round is as follows: Tullow v Wicklow, Kilkenny v Clondalkin, Naas v Gorey, Boyne v Longford, Arklow v Tullamore, Edenderry v Ashbourne, Dundalk v Wexford, Skerries v Enniscorthy