My home town team, Enniscorthy Rugby Football Club, where I started playing the game as a kid and later as an adult for 5 or 6 years, won it’s 7th Provincial Towns 1sts Cup in its centenary year by defeating Tullow RFC at Portarlington yesterday, 15th April. With 4 successes way back in the 1920’s, another in 1963 and most recently before yesterday in 1989, they have proved to be remarkably consistant with wins roughly in each generation of it’s 100 year existence.
My first cousin, another Charlie Kavanagh, had the honour of being club president for this landmark year and relished accepting the accolades on behalf of the players and club. Another cousin Charlie, in company with his brothers and my nephew Terry, were kept up to date with events in the early hours of Monday morning down in Perth, Australia. This win literally reverbated around the world!
Both Tullow and Enniscorthy come with the reputation of being two of the best supported Junior clubs in Leinster and the huge crowd at Portarlington was testament to that. Supporters were 3 or 4 deep all around the ground, with opposing fans intermingling in good humour in the fine weather. Once the National Anthem was out of the way, the noise levels lifted and the game commenced.
With the wind at their backs, ‘Scorthy were quickly out of the blocks and played most of the early 20 minutes well into the Tullow half.
Good Tullow defense and an off day for kicking by the Enniscorthy fly half Ivan Poole kept them scoreless but eventually the pressure told and captain Ross Barbour crashed over for a well taken try, converted by Poole.
Soon afterwards, Poole finally found his range with a penalty to leave the score 10 – 0.
With a few minutes to go to half time, ‘Scorthy winger Hughie O Neill weaved his way through several poor tackle attempts to score on the opposite wing, diving bravely under Tullow men to get his touch down to give his team a 15 point lead. Tullow were now in danger of being annihilated and responded with gusto. They totally dominated the last 5 minutes of the first half and were rewarded with 2 penalties to leave the half time score 15 – 6 in favour of the Wexford men.
Having bossed the game in all areas of the pitch in the first half, it was up to Enniscorthy to hold their nerve and cool to contain a determined Tullow side in the second half. Scrums, lineouts and back play were all dominated by the Wexford men, with only their goal kicking letting them down. Now playing against the wind, indiscipline started to creep into the game and the ‘Scorthy open side flanker was lucky not to see yellow for throwing punches in front of the referee. Willie Canavan kicked a long range penalty to close the gap to 6 points. Not long afterwards, veteran forward and former Leinster hero, Deccie O Brien did however find himself cooling off in the sin bin for an offense. Tullow missed this kick and a few minutes later, Enniscorthy had another try from a determined forward drive that released the backline and Fiachra Ryan ran in for a 5 pointer in the corner. A few minutes later, Poole made it 23 – 12 and the game looked over.
Enniscorthy were playing well but Tullow just would not go away. With time running out, they applied a serious amount of pressure to the Enniscorthy try line, eventually forcing their way over for a try in the dying minutes. With the score at 23-17, they needed another try but the clock was against them and Enniscothy deservedly took their 7th PTC trophy win in their centenary year.