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Thursday 14 December 2017

Swanipoel sticks knife into his former club as Ashbourne take spoils

The weather-delayed opening round of the Provincial Towns Cup drew to a close with fairly predictable wins for Longford and Naas, but former winners Co Carlow met their doom in Roscrea while the second round got off to a bang with the surprise elimination of one of the favourites Tullamore.

Their game in Ashbourne was brought forward by a week to facilitate the Offaly club's participation in tomorrow's All Ireland Junior Cup Final, but the home side produced the biggest shock to date with a 16-6 victory.

And to add insult to injury the only try of the game, which was the opening score midway through the first half, came from a former Tullamore player, Pieter Swanipoel.

The veteran South African centre has been in Ireland for about eight years now and was aided and abetted by the boot of out-half Paul Morris who chipped in with the remaining 11 points.

Fly-half Aaron Deverell replied with a pair of penalty goals for the visitors who will need to improve significantly if they are to bring the All Ireland Junior Cup home for the second time to Spollenstown.

In tomorrow's decider they face last year's beaten finalists Monivea from Galway in Dubarry Park, Athlone.

If both sides play anywhere approaching their best form it should be a thriller between the freshly crowned Connacht Junior League champions and the side currently in second place in Division 1A of the Leinster League.

League leaders Skerries are involved in one of the seven remaining Towns Cup second round ties that are down for decision on a busy Sunday around the province.

Skerries were drawn at home to Dundalk at the outset, but following their failure to field a team away to Roscrea in the Provincial Towns Seconds Cup last Sunday the Branch has ordered all their remaining Cup games to be played at their opponents' venues.

This means that the holders will now have crucial home advantage against the league leaders in the only all-Division 1A encounter.

The other top tier teams Enniscorthy and Newbridge face tricky away ties against Metropolitan J1 League sides Navan and Naas respectively.

Even so, the Division 1A sides will be fancied to triumph over their second XV opposition, although the local derby in Naas should be especially keenly contested on the day after Naas host Wanderers in a mammoth AIL survival battle.

There will be at least five teams from outside the top division in the quarter-final draw, which is scheduled to take place at Longford RFC at 5.15pm, following the all-Division 1B clash between Longford and Cill Dara.

There is another intriguing all-Division 1B clash in Wicklow where the visitors are Tullow, buttressed by some of their Gale Cup-winning side of just a week ago.

Division 2B runaway leaders Gorey will fancy their chances at home to Kilkenny, a side one division above them, while in the final game it's another Division 2A v 2B clash as Roscrea host Edenderry.

With Tullamore's demise and either Dundalk or Skerries exiting in the top game, this is proving to be the most open Towns Cup in recent memory, not to mention one of the most exciting along the way too.

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