Provincial Towns Cup
By John Shirley
CARLOW got a serious scare from Dublin side Clondalkin at Oak Park on Sunday before emerging victorious from the first round of the 2020 Provincial Towns Cup.
After the game there was a collective sigh of relief amongst Carlow supporters as this win put an end to seven long years of first-round cup exits for a club which has such a rich cup history.
Last December in the Leinster League, Carlow beat Clondalkin 24-0 so local expectation was for another comfortable win on Sunday.
Early in the game this easy win seemed to be materialising. Against the wind, Carlow were quickly into the visitors’ 22. Five minutes in, Calum Murphy was first onto a ball that was threaded through to the right corner only to knock on in the act of grounding the ball. This miss didn’t seem too bad when in the same general attack, Carlow scored a try towards the left corner. A clean lineout take by Wes Shirley was followed by a rumbling maul that went all the way to the tryline. Evan Gordon got the touchdown.
Ritchard Whyte’s conversion attempt seemed to waddle but still went through the posts to give the home side a 7-0 lead.
The score seemed to galvanise the visitors whereas Carlow’s game fell away. For the next half hour the game was played mostly around the Carlow 22. Time and again the home side stopped the beefy Clondalkin runners with last-ditch tackles. However, on the stroke of half time, the visitors’ outhalf Chris Jebb burst through to score under the posts. This was no more that the visitors deserved and Jebb’s conversion tied the game 7-7 at the interval.
In the second half Carlow had a strong breeze in their backs and again it was assumed that home scores would follow. But as they had done late in the first half, Clondalkin carried the ball into contact making hard metres all of the time. Ten minutes into the half the visitors were awarded a penalty 35 yards from the Carlow posts. Chris Jebb delivered an accurate stroke to put the visitors 10-7 ahead for the first time in the match.
This score gave the Dublin side confidence and suddenly their one-off runs were making inroads into Carlow territory. Four times Clondalkin worked the ball towards the Carlow 22 only to turn the ball over at crucial times. Four times Carlow’s Richard Whyte and Isaac Daly drove the visitors back with awkward 40-to-50-metre wind-assisted clearance kicks. This was clever cup rugby at its best and on the fourth clearance Carlow got the break they desperately needed.
In trying to cope with the long clearance, the Clondalkin defenders were penalised. Carlow kicked for a lineout on the visitors’ 22. From there the ball was mauled a good 15 metres by the Carlow pack. The ball was then flashed out to outhalf Fionnan Burke.
Burke had come from the subs bench after the interval and was having a mixed game but this time he dummied, accelerated, and cut through the defence to score a beautiful try beside the posts.
He will hardly score a more important try for his club. With the conversion, Carlow were now leading 14-10 with only about five minutes remaining.
The score seemed to knock the heart out of Clondalkin and in the final minute of the match their once-dominant scrum conceded a penalty which Richard Whyte goaled in the last act of the cup tie.
Speaking after the game, Carlow coach Corey Carty said that cup rugby can be a huge leveller and that only a couple of players on the Carlow team had ever won a cup match over the years.
“We started well but then we let Clondalkin back into the game. This is what pressure can do. However I do believe that we are close to clicking and I look forward to meeting Boyne in the Leinster League next week when we will both be competing for fourth place in Division 1B.”
Carlow’s reward for the first round Towns Cup win is an away fixture to Longford in round two.
Carlow: Peter Hennessey, Sam Cullen, Pat Connors, Richard Whyte Capt, Calum Murphy, John Whyte, Isaac Daly, Owen Edgehill, Evan Gordon, John Lyons, Wes Shirley, Thomas Whitney, Rhys Edgehill, John Murphy, Ross Elmes. Subs: Larry McGrath, Martin Mullins, Jack Hickey, Fionnan Burke, Harry Hennessey,
Clondalkin: Eoin Maher, Lethor Duffy, David Jebb, Darren Madden, Lee Bagenal, Connor Cassin, Brian Doyle, Ken McMahon, Marcus Doyle, James Finn, Tom McGrath, Conor Nesbitt, Simon King. Subs: Billy Smith, Steve McKenna, Gary Donnelly, Lee Beresford