Ashbourne Retail Provincial Towns Plate
Though knocked out of the Towns Cup for the second season running by eventual finalists, this season it was Wicklow, the Ashbourne decided to push on in the Plate and create a little bit of history. Since Sir William Butlin first presented the Provincial Towns Plate in 1962, no team had ever retained the Plate. Yesterday Ashbourne became the first team to do so, bit it is was a tight finish.
Ashbourne started favourites against a team who had been relegated the previous day, due to Enniscorthy not making the step up to the AIL. But Longford wanted to end the season on a high and came determined to take this competition. And Ashbourne nearly let them, as they never produced there ‘A’ game.
Ashbourne started well and had Longford under a lot pressure. Gavin Kennedy and Alan Wall had played the previous day for the Leinster Juniors from eth start while the Ashbourne captain James McCaghy and Simon Deevy had also played from the bench. Longford also had three players from that game playing. Ashbourne soon took the lead through a Dunne penalty but they just did not press it home. The pack fronted up well and had the upper hand in the early exchange sin the scrum while Rooney and Hurley were winning the ball well in the line out. McNally and Kennedy at 9 and 10 had the back line moving well with Sean Kent and Adam Sherrard get he ball wide to Dunne and Connolly who always look treats. But they were flat and the more the half went on the more that Longford came into it.
It was only a few seasons a go that Longford were the beaten Towns Cup finalists and they had many players from the squad on the field. They gradual started getting the upper hand. It was no surprise in the 30 minute that their 10, Conor Glynn leveled the scores with a well taken penalty. Ill discipline, borne by frustration was creeping into Ashbourne’s game and this afforded Glynn another shot at goal, which he surprisingly scuffed. But on the stroke of halftime Glynn made sure with an effort and took 6 points to 3 lead into the break.
Ashbourne had also lost Mark Rooney through injury, which has had a great season and one or two others were carrying knocks. The attrition of the game was having an affect. And it took less than 5 minutes for Glynn to stretch the lead to 9 points to 3 in the second half and Ashbourne looked in trouble.
In the 10 minute came the turning pint in the game. A Dunne penalty from the 10-meter line came off the left upright and cam back into play. Longford recovered the ball and tried to run it out of defense. After about 10 phases they had only advanced over their own 22 when their tight head was ripped of the ball Simon Deevy. Ashbourne went on the attack with McCaghy, Sherrard and Dunne prominent as they worked their way deep into the Longford 22. There were awarded a penalty on the right side 10 meters out and elected to go for touch. McCaghy found James Rooney at the tail and the ball was driven towards the line Keegan. McNally recycled the ball left to Kennedy whose long skip pass found Kent in space. He broke further left and his pass found Kelan Toolan popping up from fullback to touch down. Dunne missed the difficult conversion.
You expected Ashbourne to push on but it did not happen. Longford were the ones that were hungrier and aggressive at he breakdown. McCaghy was sent to the bin and was unlucky with the call, but it did not help the case. Bit all season the Ashbourne defense has been excellent and they have scrambled well. They need this part of their game to function and it did. Kent and Sherrard put in great tackles while the pack too a battering and a lot of defensive duties. Through the half Ashbourne used the entire bench and everybody put in a shift. O’Neill and Carey had good run outs while Behan and Keegan worked tireless when they came on. Norton was on for McCaghy when he was in the bin.
With 10 minutes left Longford were reduced to 14 men when their prop prevented a quick penalty. Still the Longford men held firm and the signs were ominous for Ashbourne. Desire is a great motivator and Longford had buckets full. But Ashbourne has learnt how to win games even when not playing well and deep int0 injury time a penalty came Ashbourne’s way and Dunne converted to win the game by a score of 11 points to 9. Ashbourne had played their get out of jail card, and thus retained the Plate making a piece of history and adding the Plate to the Spencer Memorial Cup and the McGowan Cup as well as a third place finish in the league. A good seasons work so enjoy the summer break!
Team: Kelan Toolan, Casey Dunne, Adam Sherrard, Sean Kent, Matt Connolly, Gavin Kennedy, Conor McNally, Simon Deevy, Mark Rooney, James Rooney, Conor Hurley, Jake Wall, Ciaran Roche, James McCaghy (Capt), Alan Wall
Subs: Dan Norton, Mark Behan, Frank Keegan