Rivals heed big Carlow opening
The Leinster League kicked off with a bang last weekend with Co Carlow, only just having been relegated from the All Ireland League, producing the result that attracted most attention.
Their 41-10 home demolition of newly-promoted Coolmine has made all their rivals in Division 1A sit up and take notice and it was the one scoreline that nobody saw coming.
Indeed, at half-time in Oak Park not many there would have predicted it either. The hosts led only 13-10 -- and but for some stout defending they would have been trailing at the interval. But a wonderful second half, in which they added four tries to their single first-period touchdown, was enough to propel them to the top of the table, ahead of Dundalk on points difference.
The Co Louth club also snared a four-try bonus point at home as they held off the late challenge of Newbridge by 27-20.
Skerries mastered Cill Dara in their Holmpatick base on a 14-0 score while Boyne travelled to Tullamore and laid down a marker of their own as they won the battle of two pre-season favourites 16-13.
Boyne host Skerries tomorrow in another early-season duel of fancied sides; if Skerries' title challenge is serious they'll need to put in a big performance here, with anything from a losing point upwards representing a good return.
Over the summer, Cill Dara, like all others in Division 1A, would have looked on Co Carlow as welcome prey, but tomorrow's clash in Beechpark has taken on a more solemn note down Kildare way following the visitors' destruction of Coolmine.
Newbridge will be buoyed by their spirited comeback that earned them a losing bonus point last week and they'll face a Tullamore team anxious to get a victory or else face the unpalatable prospect of being a couple of wins behind the leaders at this early stage.
Finally, in Division 1A Coolmine welcome Dundalk to Ashbrook, where they will try to use the friendly confines of home territory to restore their battered pride; a defeat would establish them as early relegation favourites however, especially with two away trips to follow.
Enniscorthy were the form team at the end of Division 1B last season, overcoming a slow start to end up a fast-finishing third.
On Saturday last, they began where they left off in March as they thumped a heavily under-strength Tullow 41-13 away in Black Gates.
Enniscorthy have the look of champions in a division that may not be quite as strong as last year and, under former Leinster flanker Declan O'Brien, they are strongly fancied to emerge as champions.
The presence of West Offaly Lions has added an extra dimension to Division 1B, not to mention extra games with the addition of a ninth team, but the Ferbane club's debut met with a sound 23-3 home defeat at the hands of New Ross.
I must admit to also liking the way Portarlington had been shaping up in pre-season, but losing 18-16 in their own backyard to Wicklow has slightly dampened expectant talk of promotion, especially with a daunting trip to Enniscorthy on the horizon this Sunday.
Last season's relegated duo of Monkstown and Portlaoise scrapped it out in Sydney Parade and it was the Co Laois visitors who stole the points with a late try to take a precious 18-14 victory.
Garda had the week off and enter the fray this weekend with a home fixture against Tullow, while Monkstown and West Offaly Lions face lengthy trips to New Ross and Wicklow respectively.
There was also action in Division 2, where Clondalkin carry the mantle of favourites and were among opening day winners (33-23 at home to Edenderry) along with Clane (15-10 in Gorey), Mullingar (15-10 in Ashbourne), Longford (16-12 at home against Kilkenny) and Roscrea (21-14 at Wexford Wanderers).
The top game on Sunday is Clondalkin's visit to Clane, a game between two sides fancied to battle it out at the top end of affairs.
Division 3 is to be played over two phases with qualification for the upper tier in Phase 2 to be made up of the top three teams in each of the two Pools in Phase 1.
Athy would seem to be a cut above most of the other teams in Pool 1 and they really put new club Midland Warriors to the sword in a 56-18 home victory. Action commences in Pool 2 on Sunday (as there is a team less in this pool, they had the opening weekend off) and North Kildare will be anxious to quickly bounce back after last season's relegation. The Kilcock side host Swords.