Monday 20 November 2017

High life returns to Dundalk

Dundalk, one of only three previous Leinster League winners in Division 1A, have gone to the top of the table for the first time since the heady days they enjoyed in the mid-90s, following their bonus point 32-18 home win over Cill Dara on Saturday.

The one-time kingpins of Leinster junior rugby, who have nine Provincial Towns Cup Pennants on display in their clubhouse, were last at the head of affairs on the last day of the 1995-96 season but lost the title in dramatic fashion.

They needed to beat Garda by 40 points on that fateful day, and indeed they'd achieved their target late in the game. But a gut-wrenching last-minute intercept try swung the pendulum back the way of Suttonians and deprived the boys from the Wee County their shot at the big time.

They had also won the inaugural Leinster League title the previous season but there was no promotion to the All-Ireland League that year.

Dundalk also famously came close to achieving Senior status back in the pre-AIL days of the 1980s only to have their ambitions thwarted by a narrow play-off loss to a highly experienced Lansdowne J1 side.


They fell off the radar for a number of years, spending four seasons in Division 2 before they recovered under the tutelage of ex-Springbok scrum-half Dan Van Zyl (pictured).

The livewire South African player/coach led them back to the upper echelons of Division 1 four years ago and their graph has been gradually on the increase ever since.

Their solid start to Division 1A this season has come as little surprise and they fought back from 18-10 down early in the second half against the Kildare town side before sprinting away with two late converted tries to secure the precious four-try bonus point. They lead the way by a single point over their neighbours from down the road, Boyne, who met with stubborn resistance in Oak Park before returning home with a 25-15 win against Co Carlow.

Skerries stayed in touch with a late try to squeeze out 19-15 winners against Tullamore, who remain winless after three games and prop up the table.

Coolmine, the previous incumbents of that unwanted spot, got off the mark when they won 23-14 in Newbridge.

The Division 1A combatants have this weekend off and the focus switches to Divisions 1B and 2.

Leaders of Division 1B Enniscorthy maintained their good start with a 22-0 victory in Ferbane against the West Offaly Lions and will hope to continue their winning ways at home to Monkstown on Sunday.

The Dublin 4 club has also hit some good form and they beat Wicklow 32-13 at home last weekend.

Wicklow will hope to bounce back at home to Portlaoise, themselves 20-7 winners against visiting New Ross who have a bye coming up this week.

Garda moved impressively into second position with a bonus point 41-29 victory in Portarlington and will be looking to keep the pressure on at the top when they host the West Offaly Lions on Sunday. In the remaining game, bottom side Tullow will hope to have benefited from the weekend off when they welcome Portarlington to Black Gates.

It was all change at the top of Division 2 with Longford assuming the leadership from their visitors Clane after a bonus point 40-25 success.

On Sunday they head to Mullingar who lost for the first time this season on a 9-8 score line in Clondalkin.

The West Dublin club now travel to Roscrea, a team that enjoyed a 26-10 win in Gorey last weekend.

It doesn't get any easier for the winless seaside club as they head north to Ashbourne, a side fresh from their 54-0 away hammering of Wexford Wanderers. Wexford, who are in last position, travel to another winless club in Edenderry. The club on the Kildare/Offaly border went down 20-9 in Kilkenny and the Noresiders are in Clane on Sunday.

There is no action this weekend in Division 3 where Athy continue to set the pace in Pool 1 following their 20-3 home win against Birr and Malahide have jumped to the top of Pool 2 after their 20-14 win in Balbriggan.

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