Newbridge poised for second bite at sealing promotion
Coolmine completed a memorable Leinster League Division 1B campaign on Sunday by being crowned champions in front of a large home crowd that included John Callaghan, president of the IRFU.
They pipped the long-time pacesetters Newbridge by a single point following their 23-0 victory over Tullow on an exciting day when all four games had promotion or relegation implications.
The consolation for Newbridge is that they will face Monkstown on March 27 in a play-off, with the winner playing in Division 1A next season -- provided the Leinster status quo remains in the AIB League.
The Co Kildare club won a cliff-hanger 27-21 in Garda, a result that means the "keepers of the peace" will be involved in a play-off with the second-placed team in Division 2 (either Clondalkin or Ashbourne) in an effort to maintain their standing.
Kilkenny finished last and are automatically relegated following their 25-6 defeat in Enniscorthy, and this was despite holding a 3-0 lead for much of the game before a late implosion.
Wicklow lost 16-12 in New Ross but that precious bonus point they earned was enough to keep them ahead of Garda as a result of having won a game more after they finished level on 22 points.
Seapoint were presented with the Eddie Egan Trophy on Saturday by Leinster Branch President Des Lamont for winning Division 1A and they showcased their talents by impressively dispatching Dundalk on a 40-11 scoreline.
Runners-up Boyne won 29-24 at relegated Portlaoise. Skerries completed their late-season renaissance with a 41-15 hammering at home over Monkstown, while Cill Dara slipped into the 6th place limbo after losing 27-8 in Tullamore.
If Co Carlow and Naas are both relegated from the AIB League and Seapoint fail to go up, Cill Dara will be relegated to Division 1B -- outcomes that may not become clear until possibly late April.
Edenderry celebrated on the double on Sunday; firstly British and Irish Lion Luke Fitzgerald cut the ribbon to officially open their brand new conditioning centre before a large, enthusiastic crowd and their 1st XV beat Railway Union 29-13 straight afterwards to gain promotion from Division 3 Section "A" with a couple of games to spare.
Wexford Wanderers ensured that the title race will continue after their last-minute 21-20 home win over Malahide.
Portarlington all but sewed up the Division 2 crown when they beat their nearest challengers Ashbourne 28-5 to open up a 14-point gap at the top with only three games remaining, while North Kildare'S 16-12 defeat in Mullingar practically consigns the Kilcock side to relegation.
The Newstalk Provincial Towns Cup takes centre stage on Sunday with eight second round ties down for decision.
The clash of the day will be in Black Gates where 2008 finalists Tullow host holders Boyne as the pair lock horns for the third year in a row in the fabled trophy.
Tullow overcame a stern test in the opening round against Portarlington while Boyne got a bye to this stage.
Cill Dara were the other side to be awarded a bye and they host Athy who caused the upset of the first round when they won in Skerries.
There is another local derby in Wexford when the local Wanderers, after a dramatic second half comeback in Clane got them this far, entertain Enniscorthy, a team unbeaten in all competitions since last November and who disposed of Swords in the opening skirmishes.
The Newbridge v Portlaoise clash in Rosetown is a clash between two teams possibly swapping league positions next season but promises to be no less entertaining, particularly as Portlaoise, victors over Edenderry, would seem to be generating some type of good form as the Cup approaches.
Newbridge got this far by winning in Roscrea.
Last year's runners up Tullamore, who won in Co Carlow to start their campaign, host Arklow, winners of a local derby against Rathdrum while Dundalk, who beat Kilkenny in Round 1, welcome Longford, conquerors of Gorey.
In the remaining games Clondalkin, on the back of their first ever Towns Cup win against Navan, travel to Wicklow who surged past Naas, as New Ross, victors in North Kildare at the outset, will ensure a warm reception for Mullingar, who got past Ashbourne to reach this stage.
The draw for the quarter-finals will be made in the Black Gates clubhouse shortly after the conclusion of the Tullow v Boyne tie.