County Carlow Football Club Town’s Cup history

Posted on March 11, 2022 in

One of the longest running competitions in Irish rugby, the 2022 Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup,
kicks off last weekend.
This competition holds a special place in the hearts of rugby players and supporters right across Leinster.
And nowhere does the prospect of a good Towns Cup run engender more hope and excitement than in
Carlow.
Depending on when you start counting, County Carlow Football Club has won this trophy either 12 or 17
times.
When the Cup was minted way back in 1892, it was called the Leinster Junior Challenge Cup. Carlow
won this Cup 5 times between 1904 and 1922. In 1925 the competition was renamed the Provincial
Towns Cup a knockout competition for Junior Clubs outside Dublin. Over the almost a century since
then Carlow on 12 wins leads the Leinster Provincial Towns Cup Roll of Honour.
Carlow’s love affair with this new competition really began in 1929 when the Barrowsiders won the cup
three times over a stretch of five years. The spine of this team came from a group of boys from the
Christian Brothers School who were introduced to the rules of rugby by one P.C. Bergin. This was the
start of a youth policy in Carlow that continues to flourish today.
Carlow next era for Towns Cup wins came with the famous ‘57, ‘61 and ‘65 group of players many of
whom are thankfully still with us and actively support today’s games in the club..
Over the years Carlow has fielded lots of teams which had the talent to win cups but missed out. Cup
winning rugby usually needs a strong pack, good place kicker backed with halves who play the
percentages. The 57 to 61 group had all of these strengths which were moulded into a winning
combination by the arrival of former Leinster player Tom O Brien.
Tom O Brien, who went on to play a pivotal role in the affairs of Carlow rugby, had already won Leinster
Senior cups with Bective Rangers and he brought this cup winning nous to Carlow. In the 1957 final the
first game against Mullingar was a 6 all draw. However the Carlow fullback Vincent Grogan missed the
replay as he was on his honeymoon. Vincent still gets slagging over this.
In the 1965 final, Harry Ardill, barely turned 18, came out from Kilkenny College to shore up the Carlow
front row in the final against Athy.
The 1977 Towns Cup win for Carlow came as a bit of a surprise, at least to the organisers in Leinster.
Such was the mixed form shown by Carlow early in the season that the Cup final was scheduled for
Oakpark. However the strong pack of forwards supported by Ernie Porter at 10 and laser straight goal
kicking by Brian Carbery delivered the seventh Towns Cup to the lads in the black and amber jerseys.
Anchoring the scrum that season was 42 year old Gerry Gordon a titan of the game of rugby in Carlow.
The celebrations of this victory probably ended in about October.
A feature of the Carlow teams during the first 50 or so years is that they won every Towns Cup final
which they contested. The 1977 win was seven wins from seven finals.
This was to change in 1979 when Carlow lost the final against a Skerries side inspired by former Carlow
player Celsus Toye.
Carlow reached the final again in 1981. The game in Portlaoise saw Carlow edged out by old adversary
Athy. This was the fourth meeting of these teams in Towns Cup finals and the first that went against the
Oakpark boys..
Another feature of the earlier years of the Towns Cup was the low scoring. The referees of that era must
have been more sparing with their whistles.
Undoubtedly the golden era for Carlow Towns Cup wins and indeed for Carlow Rugby full stop, was in
the decade of the 1990’s
In 1990 Carlow reached the Towns Cup final and were only narrowly beaten 14-13 by a very strong
Navan side.
The three-in-row and five cups in six years purple patch began in 1992 but it nearly didn’t happen. The
first round of the 1992 Cup was against Old Kilcullen, With a minute to go Carlow trailed by 7 points.
From a scrum near the opposition line Carlow number 8 John Alexander picked and went and just
squeezed in at the corner. Even then, Harry Sothern had to convert from the sideline to earn the draw.
Carlow easily won the replay and then did not lose a Towns cup game for the next three years. Such can
be the fickle fortunes of sport that even a side with copious talent also needs that little bit of luck.
The Carlow teams of the 90’s were laden with talent. That 1990 final-losing team included Ian Dwyer,
Trevor Shirley, Trevor Atkinson, Albert Edghill, Andrew Dooley, and Harry Sothern. They were to be
joined by Leonard Peavoy, Barry Gordon, Stuart Collier, Martin Dunphy, Paul Chatten and later by
brothers Hannons, Purcells, and Waddocks, Padraig Brennan, Liam O Byrne and then in 1996-97 by the

incomparable Andrew Melville or Melly.
In addition to winning cups and gaining promotion the teams of the 90’s played exciting rugby and if all
else failed Harry Sothern would win games with unerring goal kicking.
Overseeing these happy times for Carlow Rugby was coach Jim Lowry who must also get credit for his
contribution to Carlow’s greatest era.
Since 1997 Carlow has not had a lot of luck regarding Towns Cup victories. If anything this number of
lean years has only sharpened the desire to see this most coveted trophy back in Oakpark. The current
Carlow Junior 1 side is a good mix of youth and experience. On their day this team is capable of beating
every team in the competition. All we want is that bit of traditional Carlow Cup nous, a favourable hop of
the ball plus as much support and noise from the sideline as possible.
Carlow’s first round game is against Longford in Oakpark. In the Leinster League both teams won their
home matches. It’s all to play for on Sunday.
Towns Cup Roll of Honour since 1925
Cup wins/ Club
12/Co Carlow Football Club
11/Skerries
10/Navan
9/Dundalk, Enniscorthy
5/Athy, Kilkenny, Tullamore.
3/Naas
2/Arklow, Boyne, Curragh, Edenderry, Mullingar, North Kildare, Portlaoise, Roscrea, Shannon
Buccaneers.
1/Ashbourne, Balbriggan, Delvin, Tullow, Wexford, Wicklow.
Carlow’s Towns Cup Finals
Year Score Score
1929 Carlow 9 Athy 0
1931 Carlow 9 Navan 0
1933 Carlow 6 Wexford 5
1957 after
replay

Carlow 9 Mullingar 3
1961 Carlow 11 Navan 3
1965 Carlow 9 Athy 6
1977 Carlow 9 Athy 6
1979 Skerries 12 Carlow 7
1981 Athy 8 Carlow 3
1990 Navan 14 Carlow 13
1992 Carlow 25 Enniscorthy 15
1993 after
replay

Carlow 25 Mullingar 18
1994 Carlow 20 Tullamore 15
1996 Carlow 25 Mullingar 10
1997 Carlow 21 Navan 3
2002 Kilkenny 33 Carlow 12