Skerries sit pretty but Tullamore determined to take race all way
SKERRIES are so close to winning Division 1A of the Leinster League they can smell it, but they'll have to wait at least a month before they can go about securing the five points from their final two games that will deliver the prized title.
Last weekend the north county Dublin side came from two points behind at the break to beat struggling Dundalk 25-5 at home in Holmpatrick to nail down another important win.
Flanker James McConnon had given the visitors early hope with a first-half try, but despite enjoying the advantage of the bitterly cold wind in the second half the team in seventh place - and trying to avoid relegation - couldn't maintain that momentum.
Scrum-half Chris Keane with a pair and winger Paul Devitt scored the tries that secured four points for the leaders but drove Dundalk closer to the drop.
Second-placed Tullamore kept up the pressure on the leaders with a 12-5 home victory over Newbridge as flank forward Kevin Browne and winger Colin Hughes bagged the tries to keep the Offaly club in touch.
In the big relegation battle, bottom side Monkstown were thrown a lifeline as they closed to within a single point of Dundalk courtesy of their 29-23 home win over sixth placed Garda.
No8 Omar Hassanein scored two tries, winger Jamie Geraghty got another and a penalty try was also awarded to give the Sydney Parade outfit maximum points and a boost ahead of the final run-in.
In the remaining game, flanker Ollie Prunty and centre David Steacy scored the tries for Coolmine as the home side beat visitors Enniscorthy 20-18.
The first of the five Leinster League titles was won on Sunday by Guinness when they beat their closest challengers Arklow 13-8 at home in the Iveagh Grounds to land the Division 3 crown.
This is indeed a wonderful achievement for Guinness as they only returned to the Leinster League last season following a lengthy absence; congratulations to all concerned.
The 87th and latest edition of the Provincial Towns Cup kicks off this weekend with Rathdrum getting proceedings under way tomorrow afternoon when they visit Newbridge.
The remaining dozen first round ties are on Sunday with holders Dundalk beginning the defence of their title at home to North Kildare.
A feature of the draw is the number of local derbies, with Cill Dara v Portarlington one of the standout games as both clubs are top of their respective divisions.
Athy's visit to Edenderry will draw a huge crowd as many of the stars from the halcyon Towns Cup days of these past winners will no doubt be on hand to reminisce and cheer on their successors.
Longford and Mullingar should also witness plenty of fireworks while Boyne visit Ashbourne.
Co Carlow -- with 12 wins -- head up the Towns Cup roll of honour but they face a tricky encounter when they travel to Streamstown to play former winners Roscrea, while a pair of relatively recent victors lock horns in Foulkstown when Portlaoise make the short journey to Kilkenny.
Naas won the last of their three titles in 2005 and they entertain Wexford Wanderers, while another pair of recent winners go head to head when Navan host Arklow.
Tullow were beaten finalists four years ago and they welcome Clane to Black Gates.
Wicklow, who lost the 2006 final in their lone venture that far, travel to New Ross while Gorey welcome relative newcomers Clondalkin to Clonattin.
Games the length and breadth of the province should ensure a weekend of high drama before the second round draw takes place in Ashbourne RFC on Sunday at 5.15pm.