By John Shirley
“We dug in deep and got a great win” enthused Carlow coach Steve Ashmore after his team booted the highly rated Enniscorthy side of the Provincial Towns 2nds Cup at Oakpark on Sunday.
Since his arrival at the start of this season new coach Ashmore has been credited with upgrading the defence strategy of Carlow teams. Last Sunday Carlow seconds defended with lots of heart and no little skill to forge an unexpected cup victory.
At 10 pts to 5 this was a one score gap and had been since the 30th minute of the 1st half. Sitting two divisions above Carlow in the Leinster League Enniscorthy would have travelled to Oakpark as odds on favourites.
However Carlow got a dream start in the 6th minute when a poor pass across the Enniscorthy backs saw the ball ricocheting off his opposite number into the arms of centre Martin Mullins who waltzed in for a try beside the posts. Peter Hennessey converted to put the home side 7 pts to nil ahead.
With the assistance of a moderate breeze Carlow were shading the early exchanges but, in the 24th minute, from a poor Carlow clearance the ball was caught in the centre of the field by the Enniscorthy fullback. He took off to the left. The ball was eventually offloaded to bulky prop Anthony White whose momentum got him over in the corner.
The conversion was missed and the home side were quickly back into the visitor’s territory. Peter Hennessey got two opportunities to kick penalties one of which he converted to put Carlow 10 – 5 ahead at the break.
Facing into the breeze this was a precarious lead for the Oakpark side but Enniscorthy failed to put a dent in it despite being parked in the Carlow 22 for much of the half.
The visitors threw everything at Carlow but did so in a disorganised way. Time and again they spurned 3 point penalties as they went in search of tries.
Carlow held their scrums but were losing lineouts. It was the home side’s tackling and do-or-die spirit which saved the day. Twice Carlow lost players to the sinbin but the visitors still failed to cash in on having the extra man.
The Carlow back row of Keating, Chall and Hayden were magnificent in defence. Lyons and Keating ploughed into the opposition and needed several tacklers to halt their advances.
Wes Whitten came on and got vital turnovers plus a crucial lineout steal. The Carlow backs also played their part in keeping out the visitor onslaught.
The game ended with Carlow getting a turnover ball under their own posts which allowed outhalf Cormac Walshe to kick it dead to the tune of the final whistle.
Carlow are now in the quarter final where they play Wicklow on 25 March next. Also playing on that date will be Gorey v Kilkenny, Clondalkin v Naas and Tullow will host Dundalk.
Tom Bolger Capt, Sam Dunne, Martin Mullins, Harry Hennessey, Peter Hennessey, Cormac Walshe,, Alex Crossley, Timmy O Donoghue, Evan Gordon, Ross Byrne, John Lyons, Owen Edgehill, Ed Keating, Chris Chall, Dean Hayden.
Subs Mark Slye, Rhys Edgehill, Wes Whitton Nigel Smyth.
Fiacre Ryan, Alex Pim, Michael Farrell, Ronan Doyle, Dadid Farrar, Jack Kelly, David Shore, Tom Farrar, Jamie Barron, Anthony White, John Daly, Joe Bulmer, Liam Stamp, Luke Cummins, Brian Bolger.
Subs Martin Kehoe, Pat Doyle, Lee Treacy, Jake Murphy, Billy Wickham.