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Ashbourne And Kilfeacle To Clash In All-Ireland Junior Cup Final

Ashbourne And Kilfeacle To Clash In All-Ireland Junior Cup Final

A novel pairing will play off for the Ulster Bank All-Ireland Junior Cup title in the New Year, with first-time finalists Kilfeacle & District taking on Ashbourne who are bidding to become back-to-back champions.


Ashbourne 22 Ballina 17, Milltown House
Kilfeacle & District 17 Newcastle West 14, Morrissey Park

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Ashbourne, last year’s winners, made it through to the January 27 decider courtesy of a 22-17 semi-final win over Connacht challengers Ballina on home soil. ‘No regrets’ was Ballina head coach David Newman’s parting shot before kick-off and they certainly gave it their all in pursuit of a shot at All-Ireland glory.

Fielding a full strength side, the Moy men showed plenty of physical intent early on and winger David Brunker ran in an intercept try in the corner to give them a 23rd minute lead. They got a further lift when Kieran Lindsay swept over a terrific conversion from close to the right touchline.

Ballina remained on the front foot after Ashbourne number 8 Jake Wall saw yellow for a high tackle on Mickey Murphy, but they failed to capitalise on an overlap out wide when a pass did not go to hand. Before Wall’s return, captain Gavin Kennedy slotted over a 36th minute penalty to close the gap to 7-3.

Four points was the margin at half-time, but crucially Ashbourne began to string the phases together late in the first half, their scrum forcing a penalty and Ballina losing tighthead Gary Kavanagh to the sin-bin. A knock-on on the visitors’ line denied the home side a try, with Ballina breathing a sigh of relief.

However, the pressure paid off for Ashbourne in the 45th minute when Conor Hurley touched down for the third time in this season’s competition and Donal Crotty converted. With the penalties stacking up, Ballina lock Fergal Tully was sin-binned a few minutes later, and the Co. Meath outfit were soon over the whitewash again, a well-executed lineout maul producing a converted score for back rower Wall.

Winger Darragh Whyte led the Ballina response with a terrific run and he went close to scoring a try before a Lindsay penalty made it a seven-point game – 17-10. A missed tackle allowed Ashbourne replacement Shane Bass through for a vital third try, and although Ballina hit back in injury-time through full-back Chris O’Neill, the home side held on to move within 80 minutes of a dream double.

Meanwhile, Tipperary club Kilfeacle & District won the battle of the Munster clubs in front of their own supporters at Morrissey Park. History was made as they ran out 17-14 winners over Newcastle West thanks to a 71st minute try from Diarmuid O’Donnell, converted by Jamie Heuston.

O’Donnell, who ran hard onto a pass and crashed over from close range, captained Kilfeacle to the Munster Junior Clubs Challenge Cup title last season, and they have used that provincial cup experience this term to step up onto the All-Ireland stage, stringing together victories over Monivea (24-7), Connemara (12-10) and now Newcastle West.

The Limerick side played their part in what was a brilliant advertisement for Munster and Irish junior club rugby. Speedy winger Darragh Tracey darted over for a 32nd minute try, giving the visitors a 7-3 lead at the interval. He added a superb intercept score, converted again by Sean Herlihy, to strengthen their position.

However, Kilfeacle got back in contention with a penalty try as the home pack took up the baton, roared on by the Hill faithful. They produced the stronger finish with O’Donnell’s decisive try ensuring they are only the third Munster club to reach the All-Ireland Junior Cup final. Crosshaven, who triumphed in 2010, are the only Munster winners of the competition to date.

Match Photos:

Ashbourne v Ballina – Brendan Hurley
Kilfeacle & District v Newcastle West – Angela Kelly/Wild Atlantic Images


Ashbourne v Kilfeacle & District, venue tbc


2017 – Ashbourne
2016 – Enniscorthy
2015 – Dundalk
2014 – Enniscorthy
2013 – Tullamore
2012 – Tullamore
2011 – Crosshaven
2010 – City of Derry
2009 – Tullamore
2008 – Navan
2007 – Seapoint
2006 – Rainey Old Boys