Earls points Wicklow way to first Towns Cup
Sunday, May 8, 2016 will live long in the memory of those fervent Wicklow players and supporters that were in Ashbourne when they won the Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup for the very first time and then brought it to their home in Ashtown Lane on the outskirts of the town for a night of lengthy celebrations.
It was a marvellous sun-kissed occasion, bedecked with passionate supporters adorned in their teams' colours who loudly cheered on their charges as both sides produced a wonderfully skilful and intense final.
The annual ritual that is the Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup Final was being enacted for the 91st time at the south county Meath venue where the facilities are of the highest standard.
The Ashbourne members and volunteers from the local community put on a tremendous show; their pride in being part of their club's staging of this blue riband event was plain for all to see.
And the organisation was first class, from the moment you arrived and were guided to your car park, to enjoying the friendly welcome, to being enthusiastically assisted with any little request you might have, not a stone was left unturned.
And through it all the crowds poured in and mingled freely, old acquaintances from another era were quickly renewed, and as usual the tales of yesteryear grew taller and more outlandish. But nobody was going to challenge them, not on this day anyway, and sure after all you never ruin a good story with the truth.
It was a day out for all the family as there was a kids' entertainment area that included bouncing castles and face painting - and the sunny weather meant the paint stayed put!
Wicklow entered the fray as underdogs and many wondered how they would react to five weeks of inaction as opposed to Enniscorthy, who had played four important AIL qualifying games in the past month.
Wicklow came flying out of the traps, using the fresh breeze at their backs to set up good field position and then their excellent driving maul to score the opening try inside two minutes courtesy of lock forward John Jenkinson.
In the opening half the Garden County club brought an intensity to the battle that Enniscorthy struggled to deal with and out-half Niall Earls rewarded his team with 16 more points before the half-time interval as he dropped a goal, kicked a pair of penalty goals and converted his own 38th-minute try to send his team to the changing room with a 21-6 lead.
Enniscorthy were fired up after the break and two rapid-fire tries from centre Killian Lett and winger Ivan Jacob, the first of which out-half Ivan Poole converted to add to his two first-half penalty goals, reduced the gap to three points.
Instead of panicking Wicklow steadied the ship and just past the hour mark their driving maul on three successive occasions demolished the Co Wexford side before eventually replacement second-row forward Barry Hurley scored the decisive try that Earls converted.
Poole narrowed the gap to seven points with ten minutes left on the clock but try as they might Enniscorthy couldn't break down the stubborn Wicklow defence, although at the very death they did make some incisions deep into the 22 before Lett was tackled into touch in the left corner.
The final whistle sounded and Wicklow were champions for the first time in their 53-year history.