Dundalk Towns Cup woe
The Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup is currently in its 92nd renewal and the allure of the competition that brings communities together as it pits town against town has lost none of its appeal.
I was fortunate enough to attend the Dundalk v Enniscorthy second round tie on Sunday and here is a recollection on some of my behind-the-scenes observations of a typical Towns Cup day.
Our party arrived late for the pre-match lunch - fashionably so as we thought but we had some catching up to do as the large attendance had already finished their main course.
Entering the clubhouse a little after 1.30 we were met by in excess of 100 guests from both clubs who had gathered to regale each other with old stories and talk about the upcoming game.
There was a mix of young and old in attendance, many alickadoos and as Dundalk president Denis Cahalane wittily quipped in his post-luncheon address when he felt like the parish priest at a packed Christmas Day Mass, "Some who are not regular Mass goers!"
He recounted the many recent battles in both league and cup between the clubs who had won the last two Leinster League Division 1A titles as well as three of the last six Towns Cups.
Enniscorthy won 18-16 but it was not before they survived a searching test from Dundalk who missed a late penalty attempt as well as having a drop-goal effort blocked in the last play of an entertaining and fully committed contest.
We returned to the warmth of the clubhouse where we set up our stall in a corner of the bar as we prepared to conduct the quarter-final draw.
The second round results were all posted on the big screen and the Towns Cup itself was a magnet for many in the audience as they posed for photos alongside the trophy.
Everything was set to go as we awaited the one tie that went to extra-time and when word eventually arrived that Ashbourne had prevailed against Naas, a hush came over the crowd as the proceedings commenced.
Tadhg McElroy, the local boy who is hooker on the Irish U-20 team currently unbeaten in the Six Nations, drew the balls along with Niall Rynne and there was a huge cheer from the large visiting contingent when the third and fourth balls drawn set up a repeat of last year's final between Enniscorthy and holders Wicklow, with the Co Wexford club having home advantage on March 19.
The warmth of Dundalk's hospitality to all their guests helped to make the day hugely enjoyable but then that is the case regularly at Towns Cup ties throughout the province.