Kilkenny captain, Wes Carter
Kilkenny RFC have endured a mixed season. The Leinster League ended on Saturday with a disappointing loss to Ashbourne after scoring five wins, one draw and suffering eight losses.
Early season defeats to Bective Rangers and Boyne were the root cause of what ended up as a relegation dogfight.
The squad and management learned many lessons. Most notable was that a good start is a must if success is to follow.
Leagues are not won in September, but they can be lost. A better start is needed next season, so the pre-season work is vital.
All front line troops must be available from kick-off.
With the goal of Division 1A status achieved, and the Towns Cup campaign well underway, Kilkenny Firsts captain Wes Carter offered thoughts on the season to date.
The 2018/19 season was one of highs and lows but it has been a huge learning experience for the squad, he felt.
To start the League with five losses on the bounce made it very difficult to make anything of the competition.
“In truth, those games were a lot closer than the table reflected and we had opportunities to win the opening three,” he reflected.
That block was followed by playing Gorey away and a tie with League champions, Enniscorthy at home. Nothing easy there.
“After the Gorey game we stayed on the pitch and a few harsh truths were shared among the players,” he revealed.
They spoke about the need for a greater commitment off the pitch, and an increased work-rate on it.
“We needed something to stop the slide,” Wes recalled. “We didn’t get the result against Enniscorthy the following week, but there were definite signs of improvement, typified by earning a try scoring bonus point in the last play of the game.”
It was Dundalk away next. That is never an attractive proposition, and especially not with a weather warning in place.
Kilkenny showed dogged determination. They got their first league win.
“It gave us the confidence boost we needed,” the captain reckoned. “Players began to realise we were capable of competing at this level.”
After the Dundalk result, Kilkenny won five of their next six games. A highlight was a bonus point victory over Gorey at home.
“The turn of the year always sees focus turn to the Towns Cup,” Carter reflected. “We navigated through two tricky encounters against Carlow and Clondalkin before focus turned back to the league. Dundalk at home in the penultimate game was always going to be the major focus. They were just behind us in the league and defeat would put us in a very tricky situation.
“We were 14-3 up at half time. There had been no wind, but one picked up in the second half. Everyone put their bodies on the line and we got a 14-14 draw.”
A fifth place finish in the league, allied with Enniscorthy being promoted to the AIL, meant Kilkenny will have the All-Ireland Junior Cup to look forward to next year.
Kilkenny now face Longford away in the quarter-final of the Towns Cup. A tough draw. Like Kilkenny, Longford are immensely proud of the Cup. They will mean business.
“With one eye on next year, ensuring our Division 1 A status was vital on a number of fronts,” the skipper said.
Kilkenny have a young team. This year’s experience will stand to everyone.
Being in the top league in Leinster helps attract players, and Kilkenny will welcome back some key players who have been gaining valuable AIL experience.
“I firmly believe if we can get some of those local players back, we will compete at the top end of junior rugby in cup and league competitions,” Wes Carter felt.
“For now we are focused solely on Longford in CPL Park on Sunday. All support would be greatly appreciated.”