Skerries the smart bet as league hopefuls look to emulate Boyne
Boyne won the Leinster League Division 1A last season and in doing so they qualified for the Ulster Bank League (AIL). Tomorrow the race to succeed them begins.
Widely regarded as one of the most intensive competitions in rugby, this Division would appear to be the most wide open it's been for many a year.
Four of the last five winners have made the step up to the All-Ireland League while the three teams that have moved in the opposite direction in roughly the same period have generally struggled to cope with the non-stop competitive nature of the league.
Skerries and Monkstown were two teams that struggled to come to terms with relegation from the AIL but they are now well primed for an assault on the big time.
Skerries have struggled to maintain their status in Division 1A (and in its predecessor, Division 1) since their relegation in 2006 but last year, under the baton of returning local-boy-made-good Leinster scrum half Chris Keane, the north county Dublin side finished a creditable third.
Tomorrow they welcome Tullamore to Holmpatrick in an attractive opening day clash between two clubs that harbour major ambitions about progressing up the ladder.
Monkstown, relegated in 2004, actually won the Leinster League the season that Skerries came down but they failed to get through the AIL Round Robin.
Since then they've even managed to taste the ignominy of further relegation, but a year spent in Division 1B, from which they gained promotion last season, will have whetted their appetite for further success. The Dublin 4 club marks its return to Division 1A with a trip to take on Coolmine in Ashbrook.
Coolmine progressed extremely well in their first season in Division 1A but the question that many are asking is how they will perform this season without the guidance of Willie Anderson.
A couple of weeks ago Coolmine trimmed their visitors in a Spencer Cup tie, but pre-season form is rarely a good guide to the real thing.
Dundalk won the Towns Cup last season, while the county Louth club also finished runners up to their neighbours in the league and this form has endeared them to many pundits as likely winners.
Tomorrow they will entertain newly promoted Enniscorthy at Mill Road in what will surely be a stern test of the Wexford club's credentials for the top flight.
The final tie of the opening day is anther intriguing contest between Garda, last season's winners of Division 1B, and Newbridge in Westmanstown.
Newbridge played an exciting and expansive game in their first season in Division 1A a year ago, and it paid off as they had secured their position at the top table by Christmas while tomorrow's hosts went unbeaten until their penultimate game in an impressive promotion campaign.
The four games are fascinating contests with the results eagerly awaited for early indications as to who will be title contenders and who will be battling to avoid relegation in what is the hardest Division 1A in years to call.
I'm going to put my head on the line and tip Skerries for ultimate glory with Dundalk and Coolmine also likely to be involved in the title race until the very end. Oh, I could be so wrong!