J1: Provincial Towns' Cup, Round 2. Sunday, 19th Feb. 2012
by Padraic Treacy
The Provincial Towns Cup is without doubt one of the toughest and keenly contested competitions currently in operation in Irish rugby. As cup matches go, this was the mother of all cup matches! Played in superb weather conditions, Kilkenny and their opponents Gorey thrilled the huge crowd which gathered in Clonattin to witness this epic battle between two evenly matched and equally motivated squads.
Gorey, who had home advantage had beaten Division 1B side, Clondalkin in the first round and were confident of causing an upset on Sunday to Kilkenny. The visitors however, had other plans and on arrival in Gorey, it was evident that Kilkenny were not going to give in easily.
It was stalemate for the opening 20 minutes with both sides testing each others strengths and weaknesses. Finally Kilkenny’s rocket-man, Killian Everard, touched down following a superb chip over the heads of the Gorey defence from outhalf, Denis Hogan. Everard raced ahead and skilfully picked-up and fending off the attentions of two defenders got the touch down just right of the posts. Hogan attempted the conversion but he did not connect properly with the ball and it sailed to the left and wide.
Gorey regrouped and attacked but the Kilkenny defensive line remained solid and repeatedly denied the hosts the opportunity to cross the line. Resulting from the immense pressure put on them by Gorey, Kilkenny gave away a number of silly penalties and on 35 minutes, Kilkenny’s flanker Alan McIntyre was caught offside at the ruck giving the Gorey fullback, Clinton Furney, the chance to narrow the gap in the score line. This he did with ease and it was game-on from this moment on.
The pressure of the game and in response to the huge crowd which had gathered to witness this epic battle, tempers began to flare and on 38 minutes, a Gorey player was sent to the sin bin for throwing a punch at a Kilkenny player. The half ended with Kilkenny narrowly 5- 3 in front.
The second half began with much gusto and with only a few minutes played, tempers again became frayed and the game had to be stopped temporarily as both sides got involved in a scuffle. The referee eventually took control of the situation and separated both teams and banished all supporters to the stand! The game restarted and both teams were fired up more than before. Gorey again attacked but Kilkenny had a good command on the game at this stage and kept their composure.
Moments later, Kilkenny were dealt a hard blow when Philly Walsh received a yellow card for retaliating. Kilkenny coach Pat McDonald made a few tactical changes and brought on the formidable Joey Manuel to strengthen the back-line. Kilkenny now playing with seven forwards were in danger of giving away penalties but they kept their discipline and held out. McDonald switched Alan Pembroke to the wing and Philly Walsh re-entered the arena following his ‘cooling off’ period. Ronan O’Donoghue came on for giant lock, Gerry Clarke who had given his all throughout. O’Donoghue added an extra dimension to the Kilkenny attack and harassed the Gorey back row at every opportunity.
Kilkenny were given opportunities to increase the lead in the 9th and 18 th minutes through penalties from Gorey. Unfortunately Hogan was not on the mark likewise as his opposition kicker Furney, missed an opportunity to take the lead for Gorey 3 minutes into the second half.
With the final whistle approaching, Gorey found new vigour and they put Kilkenny under immense pressure. The visitors held out and with nerves frayed the final whistle eventually blew to the delight of the players and the huge Kilkenny following that made the trip to Gorey.
This was a fabulous team effort from Kilkenny and they proved once again they are a force to be reckoned with. Mick Hannigan was without doubt the star of the show and his work rate was inspiring. He was closely followed by captain Philly Ryan who again displayed excellent leadership qualities which has proved such a valuable asset to the team. Alan Pembroke was also solid in his attacking runs and defensive strength.
Kilkenny now take a well earned break with their next game on the 11th March against Portarlington in the Leinster league in Foulkstown. Kick off 3pm. This will give Kilkenny the opportunity to rest and recuperate before they meet Newbridge in the quarter-final of the cup in Newbridge on the 18th March.
Newbridge took on Naas in their second round game on Sunday and comprehensively beat them 39 – 0. This will be a hard contest as Newbridge currently occupy 4th place in Division 1A of the league. With Kilkenny in fine form at the moment, Newbridge will have it all to do on the day but Kilkenny should not get complacent and simply continue to play the tight game they have been playing up to now.
Kilkenny Seconds having narrowly beaten Balbriggan on Sunday, 12 th February (12 – 10) in the J2 Towns Cup, take on Enniscorthy on the 25 th March in Foulkstown in their second round battle. This will also be a tough encounter but going on recent form, Kilkenny should take the honours.
The Seconds play Waterpark this Sunday in a friendly in Waterpark, kick off 3pm. Their next encounter is against Portarlington in the Leinster League on the 11th March in Foulkstown, where they are hoping to retain the Leinster crown.
Kilkenny Firsts: - Alan O’Donovan, Ben O’Connor, Philly Walsh, Alan Pembroke, Killian Everard, Denis Hogan, Robby Walsh, Philly Ryan (C), Alan McIntyre, Ray Pembroke, Gerry Clarke, Brendan McIntyre, Gavin McCarthy, Brian Nolan, Mick Hannigan.
Subs: - Eddie Brennan, Emmet Lynch, Ronan O’Donoghue, Joey Manuel, Rod Hogan.