Any hopes that the Kilkenny Seconds might emulate the recent success of the First team were quickly extinguished on Sunday when a tough Tullamore team arrived in Foulkstown and destroyed all hopes of adding another Towns Cup to the portfolio, winning 6-0 writes Padraic Treacy.
On a dry but blustery day, Kilkenny threw everything, nearly the kitchen sink, at their opponents but the Tullamore defence remained solid and denied the hosts even a single scoring chance.
This was a keenly fought battle with both teams matching up to each other perfectly.
Neither side surrendered an inch of ground to the other, which was confirmed by the fact that nearly the entire game was played in the centre of the pitch.
Indeed, Tullamore only entered the Kilkenny 22 on two occasions with the host team entering their opponents 22 on only one occasion late in the second half.
As cup ties go this was a stunning example of sheer bravery and guts.
Both teams must have taken pointers from the fabulous Ireland Six Nations performance the previous day as every player put their bodies on the line for the cause of advancing to the next round.
Lost vital decisions
Kilkenny were unlucky when a number of vital decisions did not go their way which, in hindsight, could have had an impact on the result.
Nevertheless, when the half time whistle blew both teams had denied each other the chance to put points on the scoreboard.
The second half was even more physical and bruising than the first.
However, it was Tullamore who broke the deadlock in the 46th minute when they were awarded a penalty just inside the Kilkenny 22.
Their kicker, aided by the strong wind, made no mistake and slotted the ball neatly between the posts to give the visitors a 3-0 lead.
Kilkenny fought back but were very unlucky to be penalised 11 minutes later for a late tackle just inside their half which saw the guilty party receive a yellow card for the offence.
Supporters generally felt that this was a very harsh decision as the tackler was already committed to the tackle and could not draw back in time.
However, the scales of justice balanced in Kilkenny’s favour as the resulting attempt at goal drifted wide.
Tightened the screws
With Kilkenny now down to 14 men Tullamore tightened the screws. Kilkenny held on strongly and fought back.
However, in the 70th minute a player was penalised for a high tackle and the Tullamore kicker made no mistake on this occasion and stretched their lead to 6 points.
Kilkenny gave it their all for the remaining ten minutes of the game and piled on the pressure.
They were awarded a penalty on the half-way line and legendary out-half, Barry Daly expertly reached touch deep in the Tullamore 22.
This was unfamiliar territory for the hosts, but they drove at the line with all their might.
Tullamore held strong, turned over possession and cleared the ball out of the danger zone.
Unfortunately time ran out for the hosts before a counter attack could be launched and the game ended in disappointment of the host team.
The sheer physicality and pace of the game made for very entertaining but nerve-wracking rugby.
Each and every player should take solace that they put in a superb performance, however honesty of effort is little consolation after losing, especially having put in such a good performance.
With so much at stake, cup rugby can be a tough place at times, but it must be mentioned that Kilkenny were gracious in defeat and gave their opponents a rousing cheer as the teams headed for the clubhouse, wishing them every success in their remaining Towns Cup and Leinster League games.
It was extremely hard to pick one player from the Kilkenny team who stood out above the others as every player performed to the best of his ability.
However, there can only be one winner and that must go to flanker, Alan McIntyre, whose tackle count and ground making ball carries were exemplary.
The Seconds can now turn their attention to the Leinster Plate.
A final decision on whether they will participate in this competition will be made by the coaching staff during the coming week.
Pending that decision, Kilkenny Seconds next outing is on March 3 against Roscrea in the Leinster League.
Kilkenny- Colm Brady, Shane Raftery, Ben O’Connor, Vinnie O’Shea, Alan O’Donovan, Gerry Callinan, Victor Harper, Ronan O’Donoghue, Alan McIntyre, Ger Costello, Ray Pembroke, James Blanchfield, Eddie Brennan, Emmet Lynch, Darren Bawle. Subs - Brian Howe, Tom Massey, Brendan McIntyre, Robby Walsh, Barry Daly.