Newbridge facing a tough encounter at Enniscorthy to keep title ambition alive
AFTER the lengthy Christmas break, normal service is restored this weekend with a full listing of Leinster League fixtures down for decision.
Proceedings get under way in Division 1A tomorrow and the fixture that grabs one's attention immediately is the visit of Newbridge to Enniscorthy, a meeting of second versus fourth with a mere point separating the protagonists.
And they are two teams whose pre-Christmas form was diametrically opposed; the Wexford club have won four out their last five league games as against only one victory for the Kildare lads over the same period.
The visitors do have a 29-14 win under their belts from their first encounter in Rosetown and they'll need something similar tomorrow in Ross Road if their title hopes are not to be dashed.
Leaders Skerries will be keen to maintain their two-point advantage at the summit when they host bottom club Monkstown in Holmpatrick and they'll need little reminding that when the clubs met in Sydney Parade in October it was the Dublin 4 team that prevailed 17-13.
Mind you, there is no hotter vein of form in Division 1A at the moment than third-placed Tullamore's current five-game winning streak and the Offaly club will expect to extend that at home to seventh-placed Dundalk; funnily enough the Louth boys won the first game between the two 16-10 in Mill Road.
Coolmine will be attempting to do the double over visitors Garda in Ashbrook after their 32-22 win in Westmanstown in the first half of the league and the reward here is pulling even further clear from the relegation zone.
Wicklow have a three-point lead at the top of Division 1B and they will be trying to cement that position when they visit bottom side Portlaoise on Sunday.
Their lead could be even larger at the close of play as second plays third when Cill Dara host Longford, the team immediately below them, in Beechpark.
Round 2 of the Carlovian derby is in Oak Park when Co Carlow welcome their neighbours Tullow at the later time of 3:30pm (some matter of the Dubs playing Carlow in the O'Byrne Cup next door!)
While the visitors may be seeking revenge, having lost the first game between them 25-23, escaping the relegation play-off place will be higher on the agenda for the teams, both of whom are within two points of that.
The same thoughts will be uppermost in the minds of hosts Ashbourne, currently in the play-off position of seventh, when they take on Clondalkin who are two points ahead of them in fourth.
Seven wins on the trot have propelled Roscrea to the top of Division 2A but the new leaders travel to New Ross in the knowledge that even the failure to bag a winning bonus point will almost certainly see them lose their top perch to Portarlington who will be expected to garner all five points at home to bottom side West Offaly Lions.
Clane welcome neighbours North Kildare to Ballinagappa Road in a game that's given an added twist by the two sides' battle to avoid the relegation play-off place while Kilkenny travel to Malahide.
Another side in fine form is Gorey who have opened a five-point lead at the top of Division 2B on the back of a six-game winning run and the Wexford club host third-placed Railway Union on Sunday in a must-win scenario for the Dublin side if they wish to entertain title aspirations.
Another big game is the visit of fourth-placed Mullingar to second-placed Athy, while elsewhere Edenderry host Balbriggan and bottom club Wexford Wanderers are at home to Swords with victory imperative for the South East team if a miraculous last-minute escape is to become realistic.
Guinness have a three-point lead in Division 3 and they entertain fourth-placed Birr in the Iveagh Grounds on Sunday, while second-placed Arklow face a tricky local derby at third-placed Rathdrum.
The fixture list is completed by bottom club Midland Warriors' trip to Kells to play North Meath.