Enniscorthy's cup bid
Rugby side seeking third Irish Junior title in four years
After a successful five years, Enniscorthy Rugby Club will be seeking more silverware in Donnybrook on Saturday (2.30 p.m.) when they take on Ashbourne in the Ulster Bank Irish Junior Cup final.
It has been an outstanding period for the Ross Road crew, winning the Leinster League last season along with two Provincial Towns Cups and two Irish Junior Cups.
Although last year they lost out on making the Senior ranks at the end of a long season in which they played 33 games, they have recovered well and are again in contention for league success.
They currently lie four points behind leaders Malahide with just two matches remaining, and their final outing is at home to the Dubliners which could yet prove to be the title decider.
The Irish Junior Cup is one of the most prestigious events in the I.R.F.U's calendar and Enniscorthy are the reigning champions, beating Ulster side Instonians in the final in Ashbourne last year 23-7.
They won their first in 2014 by accounting for another Ulster team, Clogher Valley. They have a great Cup tradition and although they lost last year's Towns Cup final to Wicklow, they have been beaten just twice this season, away to Malahide and Dundalk.
They have made a number of changes to their management team this campaign, with Declan O'Brien playing a lesser role principally because of his commitment to his role as forwards coach to the Irish ladies' international team. He has also been coaching Clontarf although in recent weeks he has been more involved with his home club.
Damian McCabe also moved on after six years with the club as a player-coach. The current coaching staff are all playing with the team apart from front row coach Mark O'Donoghue.
Joe Bulmer, Ross Barbour and Greg Jacob, who are all still key players, have assumed the role with Bulmer taking the lead.
One of Enniscorthy's strengths has been their ability to score tries, with Ivan Jacob and Killian Lett to the fore in that department.
They have also been conceding scores this season and have produced a few flat performances, but to be fair they lost just three matches last season and only two this term which shows a remarkable level of consistency.
They have lost a few players but they have also gained some. In particular, the emergence of youngsters Nick Doyle, Tony White and Joe Carley has been a real boost.
Gone from last year's team are Seán Wall (retired), Peadar O'Mahoney (away), Timmy Morrissey (injured), Mitchel Dalton (away) and Brian Bolger (injured).
The captain is Daniel Pim who also missed last year because he was away, and his performances have been crucial so far in the pivotal centre position.
They will be buoyed by their fine display against Gorey in last Saturday's local derby, scoring four tries and 32 points. It was a clinical showing which they will have to keep producing until the end of the season.
Opponents Ashbourne have never beaten Enniscorthy since they were promoted to the First Division, and although they were inconsistent at the start of the campaign they have improved immeasurably, winning their last three matches.
However, they did win the sides' Provincial Towns Cup semi-final clash in 2013 before triumphing in the decider.
In their last meeting in the league just before Christmas they led Enniscorthy at half-time 19-3 as they pounded them with fast, free-flowing play. They ran out of steam however, and Enniscorthy eventually won.
Their scrum-half, Gavin Kennedy, is a fine player and number 8 Simon Deevy is one of the finest forwards around. Charles Coyle and Mitchel O'Meara are two backs capable of causing problems for Enniscorthy.
Enniscorthy will go in as favourites, but they know that they will have to be at their best to beat the County Meath men who are not in the running for league honours so they can completely focus on Saturday. Having said that, Enniscorthy should have too much fire power although both Killian Lett and Jack Kelly are unavailable.
The Irish Junior Cup was started by the I.R.F.U. in the 2005-2006 season and the first winners were Old Rainey. Tullamore won three in 2009, 2012 and 2013, so Enniscorthy will be attempting to join them on the roll of honour after previous successes in 2014 and 2016.
Squad: Paddy Waters (Ballindaggin), Davy Murphy (Enniscorthy), James Doyle (Oylegate), Tony White (Oylegate), Angelo Todisco (Enniscorthy), John Nolan (Oylegate), Joe Bulmer (Enniscorthy), Tomás Stamp (Oylegate), Joe Carley (Bree), John Daly (Enniscorthy), Tom Ryan (Enniscorthy), Greg Jacob (Davidstown), Nick Doyle (The Still), Arthur Dunne (Bree), Evan Lett (Marshalstown), Ivan Poole (Kilrush), Jack Kelly (Enniscorthy), Ivan Jacob (Ballyhogue), David O'Dwyer (Enniscorthy), Hughie O'Neill (Bree), Killian Lett (Marshalstown), Daniel Pim (Bree), Ross Barbour (Scarawalsh).
Team management: Declan O'Brien (coaching co-ordinator); Joe Bulmer, Ross Barbour, Greg Jacob, Corey Carty, Mark O'Donoghue (coaching staff); David Wrafter (manager); Stellah Sinnott (physio and medical).
Paths to the final: Enniscorthy beat N.U.I. Galway 74-0, beat Westport 28-10, beat Ballyclare 31-13; Ashbourne beat Bandon 33-8, beat D.L.S.P. 34-26, beat Clogher Valley 20-19.