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Home Advantage For Ashbourne And Enniscorthy In All-Ireland Junior Cup Semis

Home Advantage For Ashbourne And Enniscorthy In All-Ireland Junior Cup Semis

Reigning champions Ashbourne and fellow two-time winners Enniscorthy will have home advantage in the All-Ireland Junior Cup semi-finals, following today’s draw for the last-four fixtures on Saturday, December 15.

Three of the four Leinster clubs marched on with Ashbourne set to host Munster League Division 1 leaders Clonmel in the semi-finals, at the same time as cup newcomers Wicklow visit Enniscorthy, the current table toppers in Leinster League Division 1A, in a juicy Wexford-Wicklow derby.

Aiming for their third successive All-Ireland Junior Cup title, Ashbourne progressed to the semi-final stage thanks to Saturday’s 23-3 win away to Waterpark. Glenn Kavanagh’s early penalty edged the Waterford side in front but that proved to be their only score.

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Ashbourne led 10-3 at half-time, with strong-carrying South African Andrew Whittaker using their set piece platform and structured phase play to crash over in the right corner for the first half’s solitary try. With the breeze behind him, Donal Crotty converted and added a similarly well-struck penalty.

Out-half Crotty, who scored 13 points during last January’s final win, matched that tally at sunny Ballinakill where he kicked two second half penalties and converted flanker and captain Sean McKeon’s try in the final minutes, which put the seal on a controlled and clinical performance from the title holders.

Munster’s hopes now rest solely on Clonmel who qualified for their first All-Ireland Junior Cup semi-final since 2008 with a 30-18 victory at home to CIYMS. The Belfast club were level on two occasions, including at 18-all with tries from replacement Matt Brown and Cory Tipping, but the Tipperary men pulled clear courtesy of tries from Luke Noonan and Shay Vandam, adding to earlier efforts from James Corbett and Dylan Cadogan.

2014 and 2016 champions Enniscorthy’s reward for coming through a stern test from Dundalk is another Leinster derby on home turf. Dundalk raised hopes of an upset at Ross Road when Laurence Steen, who started at centre rather than in the back row, finished off a free-flowing move for a converted try, sandwiched by two Darragh Conroy penalties.

However, the well-balanced ‘Scorthy team bounced back from that 13-3 deficit with a try before half-time, a five-metre scrum seeing Arthur Dunne and Hugh O’Neill combine to send out-half Jack Kelly scampering over to the left of the posts.

Three more unconverted ‘Scorthy scores followed in a devastating five-minute spell, early in the second half. Prop Paddy Waters piled over from a lineout maul, towering number 8 Nick Doyle took advantage of a missed tackle to gallop clear from the 10-metre line and score, and winger David O’Dwyer then finished off a switch play in the corner.

Following some good phase play, Dundalk full-back Sam Weber replied with a try in the corner to reduce the arrears to 23-18, but loosehead Robert Farrell came up just short in his attempts to draw the visitors level. Declan O’Brien and Kieran Hurrell’s charges held on despite losing centre O’Neill to a late yellow card.

Meanwhile, on the back of CIYMS’ exit, Ulster’s interest in the competition this season was ended when Ballyclare lost 28-20 to Wicklow at the Cloughan. Full-back Ben Porter ran in a decisive late try out wide for George Naoupu’s men, following up on Shane Farrar’s break.

This was an excellent contest between two ambitious and well-drilled sides, with a Charlie Butterworth-inspired Wicklow managing to open up a 20-10 lead by half-time. Ballyclare’s in-form centre Joel McBride took advantage of some loose tackling to run in a tremendous solo try from 40 metres out and make it 7-0.

Nonetheless, a terrific brace of tries from winger Simon Breen – the first from a turnover and the second courtesy of a skip pass from player-backs coach Billy Ngawini – and captain Niall Earls’ accuracy from the tee saw Wicklow gallop into a 10-point lead.

Following Earls’ third successful penalty, Ballyclare chipped away at the deficit and were only 23-20 behind with a quarter of an hour remaining. Prop Dean Jones drove over to take advantage of Porter’s sin-binning for a deliberate knock-on. Robbie Reid converted and also kicked a penalty.

The momentum appeared to be with Ballyclare, especially after Wicklow skipper Earls succumbed to injury, but the fleet-footed Farrar and Porter had other ideas. The Co. Antrim outfit had a subsequent penalty effort come back off the post as their Junior Cup run came to a frustrating end.

Interestingly, Enniscorthy and Wicklow will meet in the top flight of the Leinster League at Ross Road on Saturday week (November 24). The other semi-final clash is a repeat of the quarter-final from twelve months ago which saw Ashbourne defeat Clonmel 22-13 at Milltown on the way to retaining the title.


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2018 – Ashbourne
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