After two failed attempts in the past two years, Dundalk have finally made the final of the Towns Cup after beating Tullow in the semi-final.
The side will now try to end a 24 year wait for the trophy after last clinching it in 1987.
Dundalk played Tullow in perfect conditions in north Kildare on Sunday in their third semi final on the trot and having got the slightly easier draw, made it through to their first final since 2000.
Having set out to play a wide game and run Tullow from side to side they had to readjust at half time. The intensity was good but passes weren’t sticking and a couple of opportunities went a begging. John Dodd failed with two penalty kicks from distance into the wind.
Stephen Murphy made a great break down the right wing but got caught by the last defender. A powerful break from player coach Ene Fa’atau found Cunningham outside. He brought play deep into the 22 but another off load failed to go to hand and the chance was gone.
Tullow came back into it late in the first half. Their out-half also failed with a couple of penalty chances but Dundalk’s defence was resolute. There were thunderous tackles from both sides reminiscent of the previous days match between Leinster and Leicester.
Tullow did have their Leinster man Sean O’Brien present in support. Tullow did break Dundalk#s defence out wide when having worked the overlap their fullback beat Dundalk’s drift defence and scored in the corner.
At half time Dundalk were confident playing with the breeze in the second half they could overturn the 5-0 deficit.
The coach adjusted the game plan to bring play in a little tighter and work it through the phases.
This paid dividends immediately. A solid scrum enabled Dodd to release the outside backs. After exchanging passes with Scully he hit McGee wide who played guest in but the covering defence held him up over the line. Tullow’s reprieve was short lived. Another solid scrum with the front row of Dorian, McDonald and Donnelly putting in some serious work enabled Fa’atau to break off the back and Noone was going to stop him from 5 metres out.
Dodd kept Tullow pinned in their 22 with some excellent kicks. Dundalk got a line out inside the Tullow half, a good take by Meegan was carried on by a couple of pick and drives. Williams dug the ball out to hit his out half.
As the centres McKevitt and Scully split McGee came through the middle and got by the first line. With two men to beat he went back open stepping left. Tullow had legitimate claims for crossing but McGee carried on, he didn’t risk the pass to lynch on his outside and made the line himself. Dodd failed with the conversion.
Dundalk then failed to gather the restart and Tullow kept possession well, working their way into the 22, going left and right they again created an overlap on their right to allow the tall second row over to score the score was now 12-10 with conversion to come. Dundalk’s luck was in and it was missed. The response was immediate. The brothers Fearon, Dave and Kev now both in the engine room put pressure on the restart.
Dundalk won a scrum on the 10 metre line. Electing to go down the blindsided Williams found McGee who stepped outside the centre, as the winger came in he released Murphy who again showed great acceleration. As he worked his way in field Dodd received the
pass just as Murphy shipped a heavy knock, to score in the corner.
The conversion would have put Dundalk two scores to the good but they waited out the last few nervy minutes to claim a great victory. Mark Rownytree earned man of the match for his tireless work and, never letting the half back settle.
Dundalk now face Tullamore in the final on Easter Sunday after they beat Dundalk’s longtime rivals Boyne in the other semi final, 19-13.
The last two years, Boyne, last year’s winners dumped out Dundalk in both semi-finals.
Dundalk will not have their chance to extract revenge, but they won’t care, now that a place in the final is theirs.
The players will need to up their game significantly but will also hope the supporters do too. Tullow with a population ten times less than the town itself managed to outnumber Dundalk’s travelling support.
DUNDALK: S McGee, S Murphy, C Scully, MJ McKevitt, D Guest (G Lynch), J Dodd, J Williams, E Fa’atau, M Rowntree, P Meegan, B Cunningham (K Fearon) D Fearon, R Donnelly, C Macdonald, K Dorian. Subs not used: D McCabe, R Naylor, J McGahon, O McNally
Dundalks Under-19s lost their semi-final to Boyne on Saturday in Navan, 15-9.
Ultan Murphy kicked three penalties in the first half but a couple of try scoring opportunities were missed. Boyne scored their tries at the end of the first and second half as the concentration levels dropped off.
However it was a great effort by the team to get to the semi finals and play so well.
They are a credit to the club and it is hoped they stay connected to the club as for some it was their last under-age game.
The fourths beat Ardee 32-0 at Mill Road on Friday night while the thirds were beaten 25-13 in Wicklow on Sunday.