The curtain came down on the Leinster League 21/22 campaign with a disappointing 5-33 loss to relegation threatened Ashbourne on Saturday. While it’s not the ending we had hoped for there are plenty of positives to reflect on from the campaign as we secured a 3rd place finish and qualification for next seasons All-Ireland Junior Cup. Bective Rangers ended-up securing the title and qualification for the Al-Ireland League Qualifiers despite losing their final fixture to Suttonians, the losing bonus point they picked up meaning they denied Monkstown on the head-2-head results. Relegation from the league has yet to be concluded as Kilkenny (who are currently bottom) could avoid automatic relegation at the expense of Dundalk if they can secure a home win against Ashbourne (who are now safe) next weekend.
On what was one of the windiest days experienced at Kilbogget Park we kicked-off with the wind at our backs, both sides having observed a minutes silence for Paul Dundon & Greg Larkin who had sadly passed away in the preceding days.
Despite the advantage the elements offered we were unable to put Ashbourne under any serious pressure in the opening quarter, a long distance penalty effort from Matt McKenna which drifted right of the posts being the only scoring chance created. As we entered the 2nd quarter the visitors made their first foray into our 22 and despite some excellent defence they extracted a scrum penalty within 10m of the posts that they made count for a 0-3 lead.
This score precipitated the best period of the game for us. From a scrum on the halfway Marty Kerr made one of his regular bursts through the Ashbourne defence, making 40m before off-loading to the supporting McKenna who deftly released Dave O’Reilly into the corner, a try that warmed the cold bodies of the home support. The conversion proved too difficult but we had the lead and a pep in our step. For the next 15 minutes we had Ashbourne on the back foot but just couldn’t break them down. The visitors absorbed this barrage and as the halftime break approached they managed to progress up the pitch with some hard carrying from their pack leading to a try that saw them reclaim the lead 5-8. With the wind picking-up strength as the afternoon progressed everyone knew it would be a mammoth task to deny Ashbourne a victory and so it would prove.
The early exchanges of the 2nd half were even with the Seapoint rear-guard frustrating the visitors, that was until a dubious penalty gave Ashbourne their first points of the half to extend the lead to 5-11 on 50 minutes. That score marked a turn in the game and despite the best defensive efforts of the Seapoint players in deteriorating conditions Ashbourne picked-up four further tries over the remaining 25 minutes to secure a bonus point victory.
While the game didn’t go the way we had hoped the 20 players involved demonstrated great pride and resilience in extremely challenging conditions, a special mention for Geoff Mahon who had his first involvement with the squad. Our next fixture sees us travel to Suttonians in the 100th Metropolitan Cup on Thursday, 10th March (KO 8pm)