Enniscorthy's class of '15 join roll of honour
Enniscorthy beat Kilkenny 9-8 in a keenly contested Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup Final on Sunday at Cill Dara Rugby Club's impressive facility in Beechpark, while Dundalk will be playing in the Ulster Bank League Division 2C next season following their 22-10 play-off victory over De La Salle Palmerston at Kirwan Park the previous day.
Out-half Jonathan Williams was the try-scoring hero for Dundalk as he bagged a hat-trick of touchdowns at the Kilternan venue. The defeat for De La Salle Palmerston means they will join former AIL foes Monkstown and Suttonians in what will be an ultra-competitive Leinster League Division 1A next season.
And Kilkenny showed in their heartbreaking one-point defeat to Enniscorthy in the Towns Cup Final that they will be a force to be reckoned with in the province's top tier following their promotion from Division 1B.
Out-half Ivan Poole kicked the Co Wexford club to their seventh Towns Cup title as he held his nerve to land an injury-time penalty goal that consigned the Marble City club to an agonising defeat when it had seemed that their No 8 David O'Connor's try a little over 10 minutes from the end might have sent the fabled pot to the banks of the Nore.
It was the 90th renewal of a competition that has to be experienced to appreciate the unique atmosphere that pervades at the Provincial Towns Cup Final .
I came across a piece in the programme for the official opening of Cill Dara's grounds at Beechpark in 2003 written by the late Paul Donaghy - who was sports editor for the 'Carlow Nationalist' at the time - that perfectly encapsulates the ambience of the occasion.
The programme was presented to me before the game by Tommy Doyle who won Towns Cup medals with Co Carlow in the 1960s and was a great friend of Paul's. It was headlined 'Rugby - greatest sports bonder on the planet' and the following paragraph sums up the spirit of the game and Towns Cup Final day.
"To those outsiders who know little about the game and more importantly the ethos of rugby, it is arguably the greatest bonder of sporting friendships; a game where on-field fracas (or trifling disagreements if you wish) end in bar room embraces, which get tighter as the evening wears on, the pints accumulate in the system. Graciousness flows from rugby winners - at least most of them - acknowledgement from losers - or should we say those on the debit side of the result - which through the passage of time becomes irrelevant."
Six members of the 1957 Co Carlow team were present at the pre-match lunch and throughout the day they mixed with many other former Towns Cup players from all over the province.
Sworn enemies on the pitch from days of yore were now best friends as the match was enjoyed before the obligatory analysis took place in the bar and old stories were retold and embellished. I spoke to a number of people who were enjoying their first Towns Cup Final; for most of them it won't be their last. The Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup is a golden nugget on the Irish rugby calendar - long may it prosper.