Challenge is on for towering Tullamore to match Skerries' mighty benchmark
IT'S that time of the year when we look back at the year that was and look forward to what may lie ahead.
Currently Tullamore are top dog on the Junior scene in Leinster but 2012 surely belongs to Skerries who returned to the Ulster Bank League (it was the AIL when they were relegated) after a six-year absence.
The north County Dublin seaside club not only won Division 1A of the Leinster League for the first time but they did so playing an exciting, open, free-flowing game that had its roots in forward power but its cutting edge was precision back line play executed at speed.
They then marched through the AIL Round Robin, winning all their three games against Cooke (Ulster), Richmond (Munster) and Monivea (Connacht) to become the fourth Leinster League winners in a row to make it to the Ulster Bank League, following in the footsteps of Navan, Seapoint and Boyne.
The Leinster League continues to be the standard by which teams are judged throughout the province and the various other division winners in 2011-12 were Cill Dara (Div 1B), Portarlington (Div 2A), Gorey (Div 2B) and Guinness (Div 3).
The Provincial Towns Cup has lost none of its lustre as a result of the growth of the Leinster League; in fact, the two competitions complement each other with teams not in contention in one often summoning up a superior effort in the other.
Those of us fortunate to be in Portarlington in April for the Towns Cup final will long remember a truly well organised event that drew a huge crowd to see Enniscorthy lift the trophy for the sixth time at the expense of Tullow.
A new sponsor, Cleaning Contractors, has subsequently come on board for the Towns Cup and the reception for the first round draw held in the Aviva Stadium was particularly well attended with all participants keenly looking forward to the commencement of action on January 27.
As previously mentioned, it is now Tullamore that are setting the pace in the Leinster League, laying down a huge marker on day one with a 35-0 thumping of newly relegated Wanderers and continuing a relentless march ever since as they've opened up an 11-point lead in Division 1A and have also reached the semi-finals of the All-Ireland Junior Cup.
Tullow appeared to have used last season's Towns Cup run as a springboard to success as they lead Division 1B by a massive 13 points, while Malahide are at the summit of Division 2A, Railway Union top Division 2B and Wexford Wanderers are pacesetters in Division 3.
Looking forward to 2013 the big question is will Tullamore make it to the Ulster Bank League?
Tullow could certainly be a threat to go one better than last season and win a first ever Towns Cup, while Wanderers have shown that they have become accustomed to life in the Leinster League. I can see them being in the dominant position in Junior rugby this time next year.