Leinster Club rugby: Malahide on home stretch
The business end of the Leinster League is nigh upon us with the penultimate series of games in all five divisions down for decision this weekend.
Malahide have been the pacesetters in Division 1A since the league began in mid-September, with the Dubliners still enjoying a four-point advantage over second-placed Enniscorthy and the rest out of sight.
The beauty about the way Division 1A is set to conclude is that the two chief protagonists meet each other tomorrow week but first off there is the matter of clearing the second last hurdle tomorrow.
There is also a battle to avoid automatic relegation with Kilkenny currently occupying the basement position in the eight-team league, trailing seventh-placed Monkstown by three points.
Another internal battle in Division 1A is the fight to gain one of the four qualifying slots for next season's All-Ireland Junior Cup with the top four securing these, and should a Leinster team gain promotion to the Ulster Bank League (AIL) then the fifth-placed team will qualify in their place.
At present, De La Salle Palmerston are in the driving seat to bag a Junior Cup slot as they are in third place.
There are no dead rubbers in Division 1A tomorrow as Malahide are at home in Estuary Road against Gorey, Enniscorthy can ill afford a slip-up when they visit Sydney Parade to take on a Monkstown side that is fighting for its life, Ashbourne welcome Kilkenny to Milltown House and De La Salle Palmerston host Dundalk.
Wicklow have already secured the Division 1B crown and the Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup holders will ply their trade in the top tier next season.
On Sunday, they will be presented with the Ray Campion trophy after they play Coolmine at their home in Ashtown Lane and while the hosts may be in celebratory mood, their visitors, who lie in fourth place, are too far adrift to realistically consider a second-place finish.
That fight for the promotion play-off spot is between existing incumbents Tullow, who play North Kildare at home in Black Gates, and Clondalkin who trail the Carlow club by two points and who visit sixth-placed Portlaoise, themselves not clear of the relegation zone yet. Elsewhere, bottom club Mullingar will try to bridge the three-point gap to Suttonians.
Longford enjoy a five-point lead at the top of Division 2A and they host second-placed Cill Dara on Sunday, while third-placed Co Carlow, level on points with the Kildare town team, face Newbridge.
New Ross can wrap up the Division 2B title if they can win at Athy, while Midland Warriors and North Meath are battling it out for the Division 3 crown.