THE romance and drama of the Cup is alive and well after a spellbinding opening round to the Provincial Towns Cup that witnessed late winning scores, extra-time and a major upset.
And it's another all-Leinster final in the All-Ireland Junior Cup as holders Tullamore and competition debutants Enniscorthy reached the decider, which will be staged in Cill Dara RFC tomorrow week.
Firstly, the upset. Leinster League Division 2A club Gorey beat Division 1A side and Towns Cup winners two years ago Dundalk 22-17 at home in Clonattin, and used the elements to good effect in the first half to help establish a healthy buffer and then withstood the inevitable second-half surge from the visitors.
Full-back Thomas Sheehy, flanker Michael Woods and winger John Mannion scored first-half tries that opened up a 12-point Gorey advantage at the interval, and the home side were well on the way to the next round when lock forward Stephen Gardiner added another touchdown soon after the resumption to increase the lead to 22-5.
But the Co Louth side never gave up and two tries reduced the deficit to five points. But they couldn't bridge the gap and Gorey can look forward to a visit to Cill Dara in the second round.
The Kildare town Division 1A club managed to grab victory from the jaws of defeat at home in Beechpark against Division 1B Clondalkin, overturning a late 10-point deficit playing against the elements to force extra-time with a penalty try at the death. Out-half Jack Ryan booted them into the next round with the winning penalty goal in extra-time for a 16-13 success.
Naas's 2nd XV also had to endure extra-time after their tie at Lea Road in Portarlington finished level at 5-5. But a try by winger Rob O'Connor and penalty goal from replacement out-half Ryan Casey in extra-time saw the Metro J1 League side edge home 13-5 to set up a home date with Edenderry.
The club on the Kildare/Offaly border travelled to Arklow to take on familiar Division 2B opponents and returned with a precious 3-0 win that may not have been a thing of beauty, as the lone score did not arrive until two minutes from the end via the boot of replacement centre Liam Holt.
Another team that tasted victory late on was Longford, who emerged with a 9-6 win from their battle in Kilcock against North Kildare, fly-half Colm Glynn kicking all three scores, including the winning penalty goal five minutes from time.
Elsewhere, there were comfortable wins for Tullow at Rathdrum (38-0), Ashbourne at Clane (27-5), Wicklow at Skerries (39-8), Athy at home against Wexford Wanderers (34-10) and Kilkenny at home over Portlaoise (32-15). Tullow (Division 1B) now host Kilkenny (Division 2A) in a battle between division leaders in the next round while Wicklow welcome Newbridge and Enniscorthy travel to Longford.
Three games fell victim to the weather (it's a miracle it wasn't more), and those games -- Co Carlow v Navan, Mullingar v New Ross and Roscrea v Boyne -- have been rescheduled for tomorrow week.
In the All-Ireland Junior Cup, Tullamore won their semi-final 28-0 at Kanturk with No 8 Adrian Hanley scoring two first-half tries while winger Colin Hughes and hooker Cathal Feighery each touched down after the break.
Enniscorthy travelled to Fermanagh and beat Clogher Valley 27-19 in the other penultimate tie, with winger Ivan Jacobs snagging a pair of tries before the interval and his replacement David O'Dwyer grabbing an insurance five-pointer.