2023 Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup Final Preview
April 21, 2023 10:15 am Des Berry
Kilkenny v Tullow, Athy RFC, Sunday KO: 3.00pm.
Kilkenny and Tullow are chasing history for different reasons in the Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup final at Athy on Sunday.
Holders Kilkenny have pocketed six titles, so far, and are hunting a second back-to-back to match that of 2001 and 2002.
They have lynchpin players back from last year in the pack, particularly in hooker Ben Devlin and the back row of Wesley Carter, Garry Dunne and David O’Connor.
Out the back, out-half Jake McDonald will rely on a posse of familiar faces to turn possession into points.
Centres Joe Manuel and Padraig Mahon are well aware of the cut and trust needed in the midfield with full-back Liam Caddy’s timing onto the ball capable of shredding defences.
In contrast, Tullow, founded in 1928, have savoured the sweet taste of victory just once in a competition they have coveted for years.
They have reached the final on four occasions, losing out to Navan (30-13) in 2008, Enniscorthy (23-17) in 2012 and the same club (20-13) in 2018.
The Carlow club eventually reached the pinnacle in 2017 when they bowled over Skerries (20-3) at the same venue where they will look for their second title on Sunday.
They have lost the bulk of that winning fifteen, retaining the experience of prop Scott Caldbeck and number eight Stephen Smyth in the forwards.
The back division is controlled by half-backs Garrett Fitzgerald and Jamie Cooper with the exotically named Christian Vainerere at thirteen and Scott O’Sullivan-Magne on the wing.
The respective League status of these two clubs would have you believe there is a Division between the pair. Not so fast.
The Marble City club has had to defy their League form to reach this point, sadly finishing bottom of the table in 1A to be relegated.
On the other hand, Tullow rode the crest of a euphoric wave as 1B champions into the Towns Cup as 1B champions, winning 10 of their 14 rounds to be readily promoted.
All in all, it makes for an intriguing final in one club on the way up a Division will look to dethrone another on the way down.
It really is anyone’s game.
Paths to the Final
Kilkenny bye; Tullow 37 Athy 16.
Kilkenny 29 Ashbourne 6; Tullow 38 Boyne 36.
Kilkenny 20 Gorey 17; Tullow 29 Enniscorthy 0.
Kilkenny 20 Cill Dara 8; Tullow 27 County Carlow 25.