Ashbourne Reach All Ireland Final for the 3rd Year
On Saturday Ashbourne made their way into their 3rd All Ireland Final in a row and hopes of retaining the cup remain alive as we close out 2018. On top of taking on Clonmel on Saturday, both sides had also to contest with Storm Deirdre, but the pitch was in great condition and the elements were the same for both sides. Ashbourne won out in the end by 25 points to 5 in a measured and controlled performance against previously unbeaten Tipperary side.
Ashbourne played with the wind in the first half and the wet and windy conditions meant that the game was one of ball carrying through the forwards with the backs getting little chance to throw the ball around. The home side started with Keegan, Norton and ever present Behan in the front row against a big Munster pack, showing 8 changes from the game played last season. Clonmel are unbeaten in the Munster league and came confident of the win, wit their pack being a big part of their success. Roche was in the second row with Kent and McKeon was restore at open side beside Deevy and Whittaker. And it was the pack that showed the way to the first try in the 4th minute. From Crotty’s kick off Ashbourne were on the front foot and gained territory deep into the Clonmell 22. From a line out 10 meters out from the Clonmel line, Norton found McKeon and the ball was recycled a number of times with Deevy, Bass, Crotty and Dunne all involved with the pack. When Whittaker was stopped short, Roche picked and drove for the opening try which went unconverted.
Clonmel were very much here to play with their big ball carrying pack and worked the ball around the field well. But Ashbournes defence was excellent and kept Clonmel very much at bay. It was Ashbourne who added to their lead in the 23rd minute. They worked their way into the Clonmel half when Connolly carried well having been put into space by Deevy from a scrum and was tackled into touch. At the lineout the Clonmel hooker was penalised for a double motion and Norton was quickly to the spot and took a quick tap. He was stopped just short of the line. The pack arrived and Deevy went again and when he was stopped Rooney was there to pick and drive to finish off the try. Casey Dunne stepped up and converted a difficult kick and Ashbourne lead by 12 points to nil.
Dunne as added a penalty kick in the 38th minute as Clonmel struggled to get a foothold in the game, but they got some success as the game went into injury time when they went over for a try in the left corner. Ashbourne lead by 15 points to 5 at the break and Clonmel were going to have benefit of the wind in the second half.
Ashbourne against the wind lifted their game and the ball retention was excellent. They starved the visitors of possession and never let them get going. But that said Clonmel stood firm and kept working hard. After 10 minutes Ashbourtne started freshening things up and introduced the Wall brothers into the pack and Kennedy at 9 for Bass, who had another excellent game. And it was the combination of an excellent reverse pass by Kennedy that put Jake Wall through for a try which was built on the driving work of the pack. Bass was back on shortly after, with Kennedy moving to 10, when Crotty went of with an injury.
The final score of the game was scored by Matt Connolly who was put through from an excellent offload by Jake Wall and the winger took the ball home from 30 meters out. The bench was cleared with Meehan replacing Norton and Colm Craigie was also introduced. This was very much a squad victory with the weather failing to put a dampening on the spirits of the home side when the final whistle sounded. The team can now enjoy the Christmas break with a final to look forward to on the last Saturday in January with the 3 in-a-row still alive! The league starts again on Saturday the 5th of January with an away visit to Enniscorthy.
The other semi final was not played due to the waether so Ashbourne will await the outcome of the Enniscorthy V Wicklow game scheduled to be played in two weeks time.
Patrick Murtagh, Matt Connolly, Jack O’Brien, Mark Rooney, Casey Dunne, Donal Crotty, Shane Bass, Frank Keegan, Danny Norton, Mark Behan, Sean Kent, Ciaran Roche, Justin Whittaker, Sean McKeon (Capt.), Simon Deevy,
Subs: Brendan Meehan, Alan Wall, Jake Wall, Gavin Kennedy, Colm Craigie
Tries: Ciaran Roche x 1, Mark Rooney x1, Matt Connolly x 1, Jake Wall x 1
Penalties: Casey Dunne x 1
Conversions: Casey Dunne x 1