Jacob seals epic fightback to stun Dundalk
Enniscorthy and Kilkenny qualified for the final of the Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup in highly different manners as they beat Dundalk and Clondalkin in their respective semi-finals last Sunday.
Kilkenny ran in six tries as they crushed Clondalkin, who were appearing at the penultimate stage for the first time, while Enniscorthy snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with three tries inside the final five minutes.
For Dundalk it was a shattering defeat as the Louth club had dominated the battle of the Leinster League Division 1A titans in Naas Rugby Club and were in total control until they imploded down the stretch.
When full-back Stephen McGee scorched over for their third try on the hour mark to add to the first half touchdowns of flanker Tiernan Gonnelly and winger Derek Williams, it seemed certain that Dundalk were on their way to their first Towns Cup final since they won in 2011.
McGee's try stretched their 15-0 interval advantage to 22-3 and it looked like curtains for the county Wexford side - even when winger Ivan Jacob grabbed the first five-pointer for Enniscorthy five minutes later there seemed no way back.
But a couple of Dundalk yellow cards changed the landscape entirely, the first one creating the space for replacement winger Hugh O'Neill to go over near the left corner and then in injury-time, with the structure of the game completely unhinged, centre Ivan Poole was able to find room with a two-man advantage to score under the posts, the conversion reducing the deficit to two points.
And almost straight from the kick-off, despite the first sin-binning ending, the mayhem continued as Enniscorthy worked Jacob clear on the right wing and he sped down the flank untouched to complete the most dramatic and unlikely comeback that the great tournament has ever witnessed.
Dundalk did have one final sortie into the opposition 22 but the final whistle sounded, something that allowed everyone to draw breath and reflect on the crazy goings-on that had just delivered Enniscorthy a 27-22 victory and a place in the final in Cill Dara Rugby Club on Sunday fortnight.
The other semi-final at Co Carlow Rugby Club, while high scoring, was nowhere near as dramatic; Kilkenny led 18-3 at the break with winger Sean Moran and lock forward Andy Nijenhuis scoring their tries and they pushed on after the resumption to book their place in the decider.
Centres Podge Mahon and Darren O'Brien, along with No 8 David O'Connor and Nijenhuis again, scored the second-half tries that comprehensively put the west Dublin side to the sword.
Tomorrow Dundalk must regather their equilibrium as they host Clonmel at Mill Road in a top-of-the-table AIL Round Robin encounter.
After last Sunday's crushing defeat Dundalk have the opportunity to take out their frustrations on the Munster Junior League winners as they chase their goal of a place in the Ulster Bank League next season and with one match remaining in the Round Robin after tomorrow the victors at Mill Road will be in prime position to advance to the AIL play-off.