Chance for revenge as Enniscorthy to face Ashbourne in repeat of 2016
Rugby, All-Ireland Junior Cup Semi-final: Enniscorthy 35 Wicklow 12
Enniscorthy qualified for the All-Ireland Junior Cup final when they beat Wicklow at Ross Road on the Saturday before Christmas.
Whilst it was a convincing scoreline, it was far from a convincing performance at times, and Wicklow must take credit for that with a controlled, stubborn defensive display.
This was the sides' third meeting this season and this game also doubled up as the South-East league final after both clubs agreed that it was not in the interest of either to meet again in a week's time.
Wicklow looked very confident right from the kick-off. Enniscorthy were missing three influential forwards in Joe Carley, Tomás Stamp and Timmy Morrissey but, to be fair, the visitors were without a few as well.
Enniscorthy dominated the opening exchanges but the visitors' defence was superb, although the home side's ball from rucks and mauls was a little slower than normal.
Out-half Jack Kelly had an early chance with a penalty kick from 40 metres but he pushed it inches wide of the post.
Fifteen minutes in and Wicklow scored a try. Number 8 Wes Wojnar broke free from a loose ruck and his well-timed pass put in right winger Simon Breen to score. Niall Earls just missed the conversion.
Ivan Poole replaced Jack Kelly and there was a strong response from the home side, but their progress was halted when Killian Lett was sin-binned after coming in from the side to tackle Dean Leonard.
Eventually, six minutes from half-time, the breakthrough came when a training ground move worked, with Ivan Poole flinging out a 20-metre pass to Danny Pim who just touched down, taking the corner flag out in the process. Poole kicked an excellent conversion from the clubhouse sideline.
Two minutes later, Ivan Poole was again to the fore as he threw out another 20-metre pass, this time to flying winger Ivan Jacob who carved the Wicklow defence wide open to score the second try under the posts.
It was an easy conversion for Poole and, as the half-time whistle sounded, Enniscorthy had completed the comeback and led 14-5.
The large home crowd might have expected them to drive on, but instead the visitors came out on fire from the re-start and pinned Enniscorthy back in their own half for 20 minutes.
They scored their second try in the 55th minute, with centre Adam Cullen intercepting an Ivan Poole pass which was intended for Killian Lett. Earls dispatched the conversion to close the gap to 14-12.
It was now a tight match and with 15 minutes remaining it was wide open. The breakthrough came five minutes later when, from a line-out, man of the match No 8 Nick Doyle won possession, turned and drove over. With Ivan Poole adding the conversion, the lead rose to 21-12.
Enniscorthy really turned the screw now and Killian Lett finished off an excellent team move. As the conversion was added, the lead was now unassailable as Wicklow weakened.
The fifth try by Nick Doyle was a stunning score when he made a clear break on the halfway line and, as the Wicklow defence converged, he used his Gaelic football skill to kick pass the ball with his right boot out to Ivan Jacob who did the rest. Once again the conversion was added by Poole before the full-time whistle sounded.
'We made hard work of it but the players showed great courage,' coach Declan O'Brien said.
'We knew Wicklow would be good and they were and, considering the forwards that we are missing, we are pleased.
'We had to put captain Tom Ryan in the second row which is not his regular position, but Luke Cummins, Brian Bolger and Nick Doyle were excellent.
'It was also nice to get the South East league cup and medals too. We are facing into the new year with a heavy schedule ahead of us, with Ashbourne at home in the league on January 5.
It was a good day for Enniscorthy, qualifying for the All-Ireland Junior Cup final which will be a repeat of the 2016 decider against Ashbourne who won on that occasion. It will be played in Edenderry on January 26.
They also won the South East league final and head into the new year nine points clear of their nearest rivals, Gorey, in the Leinster League.
Enniscorthy: Paddy Waters (Murt Kehoe, 65), David Murphy, Angelo Todisco (James Doyle, 65), Liam Stamp, Tom Ryan (capt.), Brian Bolger, Luke Cummins, Nick Doyle (try), Arthur Dunne (Alan Jacob, 70), Jack Kelly (Ivan Poole, 25, four conversions), David O'Dwyer (Hughie O'Neill, 70), Daniel Pim (try), Killian Lett (try), Ivan Jacob (two tries).
Wicklow: Neill Dickson, Jack McKenna, Seamus O'Brien, Tom McGuire, Brian Short, Luke Gereskowski, Mark Nicholson, Wes Wojnar, Shane Byrne, Niall Earls, Dean Leonard, Shane Farrar, Adam Cullen, Simon Breen, Ben Porter. Subs. used - Mark Cullen, Jack Dunne, Andrew Doyle.
The next game is on Saturday, January 5, at home to Ashbourne in the Leinster League Division 1A at 2 p.m.