The Ulster Bank All-Ireland Junior cup reaches a fascinating climax on Saturday when holders Enniscorthy face fellow Leinster side Ashbourne in the final at Donnybrook (kick-off 2.30pm). The match will be streamed live on the Irish Rugby Facebook page and YouTube channel.
ULSTER BANK JUNIOR CUP FINAL: Saturday, January 28
ASHBOURNE v ENNISCORTHY, Old Wesley RFC, Donnybrook, 2.30pm
– Admission is 5 euro for adults and Under-16s are free
Current League & Cup Form – Ashbourne: LWWLW; Enniscorthy: WWWWW
Current League Positions – Ashbourne: 4th, Leinster Junior League Division 1A; Enniscorthy: 2nd, Leinster Junior League Division 1A
Routes To The Final:
First round: Won 28-10 away to Westport
Quarter-final: Won 33-8 at home to Bandon
Semi-final: Won 20-19 at home to Clogher Valley
First round: Won 74-0 at home to NUI Galway
Quarter-final: Won 31-13 at home to Ballyclare
Semi-final: Won 34-26 away to De La Salle Palmerston
All-Ireland Junior Cup Records:
2015/16: Reached the quarter-finals (W29-9 away to Westport; L32-20 away to Enniscorthy)
2012/13: Runners-up (W26-10 away to Skibbereen; W15-8 at home to Donaghadee; W27-19 away to Clogher Valley; Final – L29-10 to Tullamore at Cill Dara RFC)
2013/14: Champions (W25-0 at home to CIYMS; W30-22 at home to Coolmine; W14-13 at home to Portadown; Final – W10-9 against Clogher Valley at Coolmine RFC)
2014/15: Reached the quarter-finals (W36-27 at home to Portadown; L14-12 away to Bangor)
2015/16: Champions (W(Walkover) at home to Dromore; W32-20 at home to Ashbourne; W23-5 at home to Bangor Final – W23-7 against Instonians at Ashbourne RFC)
Preview: Junior Cup holders Enniscorthy have been installed as favourites on the basis of their run of form in Division 1A of the Leinster Junior League, which has seen them beat Ashbourne twice already this season.
They met at the start of the season and while both sides secured a try-scoring bonus point in an entertaining affair, it was the Co. Wexford club who emerged on the right side of 40-32 scoreline. In their recent return fixture, the Meath men, who can be inconsistent at times, saw a 19-point lead overturned as ‘Scorthy dug deep to win out 28-19.
Enniscorthy, in their fourth final in the All-Ireland Junior Cup, are chasing their third cup win and it has been very much a squad effort. Their strong bench was a factor in their 34-26 semi-final victory over De La Salle Palmerston, along with a man-of-the-match performance from flanker Tom Ryan who scored the clinching 80th-minute try.
It will be a return to familiar surroundings for some of the ‘Scorthy contingent as player-coaches Ross Barbour and Greg Jacob both previously played for Old Wesley, the Junior Cup final hosts. Half-backs Ivan Poole and Evan Lett will hope to get the best out of a back-line that is marshalled by Barbour, while lock Tomas Stamp and number 8 Nick Doyle are, like Ryan, regular scores up front.
Speaking ahead of the Donnybrook decider, Enniscorthy centre and captain Daniel Pim said: “There’s always a change in the level of excitement in the squad before the cup. There’s something a bit special and a bit different. Ashbourne are a really strong side, particularly up front, so we know to expect a tough test on the day.”
Ashbourne’s own road to the final has seen them beat Westport and Bandon before securing a nail-biting but deserved 20-19 semi-final success against previous finalists Clogher Valley. Adam Sherrard and Adam Martin both touched down in the first half against Clogher and fellow back Casey Dunne landed a crucial 75th-minute penalty.
The Milltown outfit, coached by Peter O’Donnell, are boosted by out-half Donal Crotty’s recent return from a long-term injury and the presence of the evergreen Jeff Mahon in the second row. There is a strong connection in the squad with the local community as the likes of Mahon, Sean Kent, Danny Norton and Jake and Alan Wall all hail from the Ashbourne area.
Although Enniscorthy have held the edge in league meetings, Ashbourne will take encouragement from their 2014 semi-final win over ‘Scorthy during their maiden Provincial Towns Cup-winning campaign.
The sides have some All-Ireland Junior Cup history as well, the two battled it out at the quarter-final stage last year with ‘Scorthy winning 32-20 at Ross Road. Crotty’s reliable boot knocked over five penalties to close the gap to 22-15, but closing tries from Angelo Todisco and Hugh O’Neill, adding to earlier efforts from Barbour, Arthur Dunne and David O’Dwyer, settled the issue.
Ashbourne scrum half and skipper Gavin Kennedy commented: “This is only our second year in the All-Ireland Cup and we lost to Enniscorthy last season so to get to the final this year is fantastic. We have a great club and we’d like to add some silverware this year.”
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Enniscorthy to win
ASHBOURNE (probable): Dermot Colreavy; Casey Dunne, Jack O’Brien, Adam Martin, Mitchell O’Meara; Donal Crotty, Gavin Kennedy (capt); Alan Wall, James McCaghy, Mark Behan, Sean Kent, Jeff Mahon, Conor Hurley, James Rooney, Jake Wall.
Replacements: Daniel Norton, Simon Deevy, Ciaran Roche, Frank Keegan, Adam Sherrard, Kelan Toolan, Matt Connolly.
ENNISCORTHY (probable): Ross Barbour; Ivan Jacob, Hugh O’Neill, Daniel Pim (capt), David O’Dwyer; Ivan Poole, Evan Lett; Angelo Todisco, David Murphy, Paddy Waters, Joe Bulmer, Tomas Stamp, Tom Ryan, Greg Jacob, Nick Doyle.
Replacements: Arthur Dunne, Shane Dalton, Anthony White, John Nolan, John Daly, Ronan Doyle, Joe Carley.
Referee: Robert O’Sullivan (IRFU)
All-Ireland Junior Cup Roll Of Honour –
2010: City of Derry
2006: Rainey Old Boys