Runaway Tullamore face Wanderers test
Tullamore, Tullow, Kilkenny, Railway Union and Wexford Wanderers; the pacesetters in the five divisions of the Leinster League as the second half of the season gets under way this coming weekend.
And even at this relatively early stage it would appear that many decisions are very much along the way to being resolved with some big leads being enjoyed by some of the aforementioned clubs, while others are falling away by large margins at the opposite end.
Tullamore enjoy a massive 10-point advantage at the top of Division 1A, and even at this juncture they must be making provisional plans for their assault on the AIL Round Robin in late March and early April.
The County Offaly side have picked up four-try bonus points in five of their seven victories so far, and the club's unbeaten start is based on a relentless intensity that their pack has generated which sooner or later wears down its opponents.
They have some dynamic ball carriers led by their influential No 8 Adrian Hanley, and they now have the chance to prove once and for all that they are not just a great cup side.
It would appear that the chasing pack is scrapping over the minor placings, which of course have the added bonus of delivering qualification for next season's All Ireland Junior Cup.
With places up for grabs for the top four (the fifth-placed team would qualify if Tullamore get up to the AIL), Newbridge, Enniscorthy, Dundalk, Coolmine and Wanderers are the contenders for these prized positions, thus ensuring plenty of ultra-competitive action for the remainder of the campaign.
Garda would appear doomed for relegation as they trail seventh-placed Cill Dara by seven points, while the Kildare town club seems to be cemented into that relegation play-off position as they lie nine points adrift of safety.
Tullamore face a tough test tomorrow when they travel to Lansdowne Road to face Wanderers, with the Dublin 4 side much more at ease now having adjusted to life outside the AIL after that initial shock of a 35-0 hammering at the hands of the leaders on the opening day back in September.
Newbridge will be ready to pounce on any slip-ups when they host Garda at Rosetown, while Enniscorthy welcome Coolmine to Ross Road and Cill Dara travel to Mill Road to face Dundalk in an evening kick-off.
Tullow's lead in Division 1B is seven points with second-placed Monkstown the only team that has prevented them winning all their games, courtesy of the 20-20 draw the Dubliners chiselled out of their visit to Black Gates.
While Tullow may be flying, their neighbours and great rivals as well as one-time AIL high flyers Co Carlow are 11 points adrift at the bottom. They must win when they visit Longford, the team immediately above them, on Sunday if they are to entertain any thoughts of a Houdini-like miracle escape from relegation.
Tullow host Wicklow and will know before they start if their lead has been eroded after Monkstown's visit to Ashbourne this evening.
Kilkenny hold a four-point advantage over Malahide in Division 2A and the top two clash at the north county Dublin venue in Estuary Road on Sunday; if there are any slip-ups third-placed Gorey, four points further back, will be looking to close the gap at home to Clane.
The Kildare side are in the relegation play-off spot, four points ahead of bottom club New Ross who host Mullingar.
Division 2B leaders Railway Union are at home to Athy and will be keen to extend their three-point lead over Edenderry, the only team to have beaten them to date and who are the idle side this weekend.
Swords are last, 10 points adrift of Athy, and they face third-placed North Kildare on Sunday.
Division 3 leaders Wexford Wanderers are at home to Rathdrum this evening with Birr, in second place, travelling to Moate to play the Midland Warriors on Sunday.