Ashbourne captain Mark Rooney surges forward during his side's Leinster League Div 1 clash with Co Carlow on Sunday at Milltown.
Since the start of the season Ashbourne have been grappling with a range of difficulties in their Leinster League Div 1B campaign including a spate of injuries and an inability to translate possession into scores.
All those difficulties were put aside on Sunday when they welcomed Co Carlow to Milltown and emerged from an uncompromising encounter with a victory - only their second of the season.
What's seldom is wonderful and the win was greeted with great joy by the players. They had worked tigerishly hard, particularly in the second-half when Co Carlow exerted a long sustained spell of pressure in search of redemption.
The fact that the visitors failed to engineer a try they so desperately sought was mainly down to some faultless defending by Ashbourne. A few knock-ons and poorly delivered passes by the Co Carlow players also helped. Ashbourne were certainly not helped by the sin-binning of scrum-half Conor McNally just before the interval.
The home side led 6-3 at the break with a huge chunk of the second-half action played out inside the home 22 yet somehow the Ashbourne Maginot Line held against the hordes of Carlowmen who yet couldn't find a way through.
Ashbourne had some big performances from a number of players including their roving centre Paul Morris. He embellished his performance with a series of line-breaking runs and garnered nine points from three penalties which he confidently swept over, two of them in the opening 40 minutes.
Time and again Morris drove through the startled Co Carlow defence with mazy runs from deep. Invariably he would take possession of the ball, jink one way, then the other. The outcome saw a couple of opponents laying on the ground left wondering if it was some kind of phantom they had been trying to tackle.
Morris's good work exposed weaknesses in the Carlow defence without any tangible result on the scoreboard. That changed on 49 minutes when Gavin Kennedy, who was back in the Ashbourne line-out after a lengthy spell away, won the ball in midfield and sent a pass to Morris who set off on one of his ground-eating runs. He slipped effortlessly past a few tackles before returning the ball to Kennedy on his shoulder - and had a clear run to the try-line.
Whether Ashbourne can remain in Div 1B remains to be seen but this victory will do much to restore the inevitable damage done to the morale in what has been a horrendous start to the season. They won just one of their first five games and while defensively they were sound they found it very difficult to dig out scores - and their prospects didn't look too promising going into this tie.
Co Carlow arrived at the venue as the table-toppers although how a club like that has ended up in a position where it is now is a salutary lesson for other outfits lured by the attraction of mixing it with the big boys without the proper foundations in place.
Just over a decade ago Co Carlow were in the top flight of Irish club rugby, rubbing shoulders with the Blackrocks and the Garryowens. They invested heavily in bringing players in from Dublin and abroad. It backfired spectacularly and they now find themselves languishing in junior rugby burdened down by big financial debts.
The were relegated to the Leinster League at the end of last season and while they are at the business end of the table at the moment they face a long journey back to where they once were.
Ashbourne can have good reason to be optimistic based on the standard of the performance produced in this encounter. Their line-outs worked well, their scrum was solid and more than matched their opponent's.
When the pressure was most intense in the second-half the Ashbourne pack stood up to the challenge with players such as Frank Keegan and Alan Wall capping excellent displays by forcing a series of turnovers.
Both of the Co Carlow penalties were fired over by their kicker Richard White and they had some very capable players including lock Wesley Shirley.
They didn't have enough invention to breakdown the sturdy Ashbourne defence for a try or two that would have saved their day.
Ashbourne - D Colreavy, A Sherrard, J Taylor, P Morris, M O'Meara, G Kennedy, C McNally; F Keegan, A Wall, C Roche, M Biesbrouck, E Gallagher, K Bolster, M Rooney, J Mahon. Sub - M Behan for Gallagher.
Co Carlow - B Purcell, J Clare, T McDonagh, P Barcoe, S Smith, R White, J White; L McGrath, J Gorman, L Byrne, W Shirley, B Watters, J Tallant, T Rathiti, J Bulmer. Sub - R Elms for McDonagh.
Referee - Richard Carson (Leinster Branch).