One of the big days in the Rugby Calendar takes place this coming Sunday in Athy at 3pm as Kilkenny and Tullow clash in The Provincial Towns Cup Final.
Both Teams had somewhat contrasting Semi-Finals with Kilkenny mostly in control against Cill Dara in Portlaoise, while Tullow had to endure a Final Quarter fightback from their near neighbours County Carlow before just hanging on for a two point win at the final whistle(27-25).
Kilkenny won their Semi-Final 20-8 against Cill Dara having led 12-3 at half-time, while as mentioned Tullow held on to win 27-25 against Carlow.
David O’Connor, Podge Mahon and Liam Caddy were Tryscorers in Kilkenny’s Semi-Final win and captained by Jake McDonald, Kilkenny will be hoping to record consecutive Towns Cup Triumphs for the 1st time since 2001 and 2002.
Victory on Sunday would mean Kilkenny winning The Towns Cup for The 7th time having won the cup on 6 previous occassions.
Their fiest Towns Cup triumph was back in 1955 where they won 9-3 against North Kildare following a replay after the original fixture ended 3-3.
Another Towns Cup win against North Kildare came four years later in 1959 when Kilkenny won 3-0.
Kilkenny had to wait 27 years until 1986 before their next Towns Cup win when Captained by Mick McGrath, they won 10-0 against The Curragh in Drogheda with Willie Mahony and Nicky Mcgrath the tryscorers, while former Ireland rugby international and Kilkenny senior All-Ireland medal winner Ned Byrne was part of the Kilkenny team.
Willie Mahony is a nephew of fellow Kilkenny native, the late great Willie Duggan and he is Kilkenny’s most successful Towns Cup player as he is the only player to have won three Towns Cup medals.
As well as featuring in 1986, Willie was also part of Kilkenny’s subsequent winning Teams in 2001 and 2002.
Captained by Simon Manuel, A late Dave McMahon Penalty saw Kilkenny snatch victory 9-8 against Portlaoise in 2001 in Carlow, before The Towns Cup was retained 12 months later in 2002 with a comprehensive 33-13 win against County Carlow.
2002 was a memorable year for The Kilkenny Firsts Team as along with retaining The Towns Cup, they won both The South East and Leinster Leagues while just narrowly missing out on a promotion to The AIL League.
Kilkenny suffered The heartbreak of consecutive narrow Cup Final defeats in 2014 and 2015 as they lost 6-3 to Ashbourne in 2014, before losing 9-8 to Enniscorthy a year later in 2015.
Last years 32-6 Cup Final win against Ashbourne ended a 20 year gap since they previously won The Towns Cup back in 2002.
If Kilkenny win again on Sunday they will have repeated the feat of back to back Towns Cup Final triumphs from 2001-2002, and in 2002 they defeated fellow Carlow opposition in County Carlow so history would be repeating itself should they pull it off against Tullow.
Tullow will be a tough nut to crack on Sunday having gained promotion to Division 1A of The Leinster League, with Kilkenny heading in the opposite direction having suffered relegation to Division 1B.
However, Tullow had to withstand a rally from their Carlow opponents to book their place in Sunday’s Final having led by 14 points in their Semi-Final clash(27-13).
A brace of tries from both Scott Caldbeck and Jordan Leybounne appeared to have put Tullow well on their way to victory, but two tries from County Carlow left the Tullow Men nervously looking over their shoulders.
County Carlow had a glorious opportunity from a conversion to force extra-time, but to Tullow’s relief it went wide of goal and they held on for a narrow victory.
Tullow easily defeated Kilkenny’s Semi-Final opponents Cill Dara comprehensively to gain Promotion to Division 1A, so that’s just an indication of the task Kilkenny are facing.
Former Ireland and Leinster Rugby great Sean O’Brien has been more than giving a helping hand to his native Tullow since his retirement, and his presence around The Club has unquestionably helped them onto greater efforts.
Tullow’s first final appearance was in 2008 when they lost to Navan, before they lost again in 2012 to Enniscorthy.
However, they finally broke their Towns Cup hodoo in 2017 when winning 20-3 against Skerries before losing the 2018 final to Enniscorthy.
It promises to be a fascinating contest on Sunday, and having suffered the disappointment of Relegation, The Towns Cup is Kilkenny’s saving grace and a 7th Cup Final success in the Clubs history would help finish the season on a high.