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06 Oct 2022

Kilkenny make ideal start to Leinster League campaign

Kilkenny 20 Ashbourne 18

Kilkenny make ideal start to Leinster League campaign

BEST FOOT FORWARD: Podge Mahon in action for Kilkenny in their Leinster League game against Ashbourne. Picture: Mark Desmond

Doing things the hard way builds character; doing things the easy way destroys it. It was character and spirit that turned this opening Leinster league tie in Kilkenny’s favour, against a dogged and ambitious Ashbourne team at a sun-kissed Foulkstown last Saturday.

The previous meeting between these sides, last year’s Towns Cup final, was a one-sided contest where Kilkenny took the spoils.

After a lot of prudent recruitment in the off-season, which saw the addition of several new recruits, Kilkenny entered the game as clear favourites.

Yet despite the successful recruitment, the home side entered the game without the services of Drew Phelan, Rob Kelly, Joe Moynihan, Roy Stanley, Shane O’Riordan, Jake Pratley and new signings Geoff Power and Brendan McSorley who, for various reasons. were all unavailable for selection.

Kilkenny started the game with real intensity, looking to play some attractive attacking rugby.

In truth, Ashbourne’s defence looked very comfortable and soaked up everything that was in front of them.

Despite this, Kilkenny managed to get the first score of the game.

After an Ashbourne infringement in the eighth minute, Kilkenny opted for a line out. From the maul Damo Leahy got the first try. Tim Corkery failed with a difficult conversation attempt.

For the next 20 minutes Kilkenny dominated possession and had all of the territorial advantage.

They huffed and puffed but couldn’t manage to penetrate the Royal’s busy defensive efforts.

When Ashbourne got possession and territory they were brutally efficient.

Their first venture into the Kilkenny 22 didn’t occur until the 25th minute and they left with seven points.

Ten minutes later Hugh Corkery converted a penalty kick from just inside his own half to restore a one point lead.

Immediately after the restart illegal Kilkenny play afforded the visitors an immediate opportunity to regain the lead through a penalty kick.

Just two minutes later Corkery made a very uncharacteristic error.

A clearing Ashbourne kick was kept in field. Corkery, thinking he had more time than he did, allowed it to bounce, creating a contest for possession.

Ashbourne came up with the ball and despite the best efforts of Joe Manuel and then Lyndon Brannigan, crossed in the corner.
Leaving the halftime score 15-8, however, things could and possibly have been far worse.

After the break it was the visitors who kept their score accumulating.

Another Kilkenny infringement was penalised, Ashbourne slotted the penalty to put 10 points between the sides.

This was to be the visitors’ last score of the tie.

From here Kilkenny switched on and knuckled down to business.

Defence tightened up and discipline improved and the Cats began to take control.

In defence Ben Devlin, Liam Phelan and David O’Connor all put in a significant effort.

Using defence to create attacking opportunities Kilkenny went in search of a score.

In the 60th minute the forward pack, led by Wes Carter and Gary Dunne made progress.

Deep inside their own half Kilkenny won quick ruck ball, the impressive Ioan Lewis passed to Jake McDonald.

Taking a short support line Joe Manuel created confusion in the Ashbourne defence.

With the deftest of touches Manuel off-loaded a delicate pass to Podge Mahon, who exploited and exploded with rapid acceleration through the gap made by Manuel.

Mahon, a speedy operator, raced up field, into the opposing half and kicked a smashing grubber kick for Lyndon Brannigan to run onto.

Just as Brannigan was gathering the ball to cross the line, a bizarre two footed lunge took the winger out to prevent a certain try.

A small fracas followed and was brought under control by referee Ian Thompson, who brandished a yellow card to the guilty Ashbourne player and a second card to Brannigan for his overzealous reaction, which kicked off the aforementioned fracas.

A penalty try looked certain but one can only assume that Thompson opted against such a decision as a result of the reaction of the Kilkenny players.

Irrespective, a five metre lineout resulted in Wes Carter getting the across the line. It was a well worked score, straight off the training pitch, where everything came together as planned.

Devlin was on the spot with his throw, lifters and jumpers were in unison and the driving maul was like a juggernaut.

Corkery was unfortunate with the conversion, leaving the score 18-13, but with the home side in the ascendancy one could sense the forthcoming tidal wave of attack that was coming.

Growing with confidence and playing with more simplicity Kilkenny piled the pressure on.

In the 70th minute following a prolonged visit into the Royal’s 22m zone, Ioan Evans was quickest to react to block down a clearing box kick, blocking the ball into the in-goal area the Welshman did excellently to run on to get a very intelligent score in the corner.

Up stepped the ever confident Hugh Corkery, who so many times came up trumps with doing the impossible.
A calm customer, the 22-year-old engineer calmly, with the aid of the post converted to give Kilkenny a two point lead.

Ashbourne tried to reclaim attacking territory but Kilkenny had them deep inside their own half and any exit to the scoring zone would have taken a catastrophic error by the Cats.

The more Ashbourne tried the more comfortable Kilkenny looked, for The game ended with a rapturous Foulkstown roar which shrouded the relief of the large home support.

Kilkenny will play Suttonians away next week.

Kilkenny - 15. Hugh Corkery, 14. Jack Walsh, 13. Podge Mahon, 12 Joe Manuel, 11. Lyndon Brannigan, 10. Jake McDonald. 9 Ioan Lewis, 1. Liam Phelan 2. Ben Devlin, 3. Abel Viana, 4. Wesley Carter, 5. Samuel Smyth, 6. Damo Leahy, 7. Gary Dunne, 8. David O’Connor.

Replacements 16. Jack McGrath, 17. Brian Howe, 18. Andrew Warner, 19. Liam McWea, 20. Aaron Askins.

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