Tullamore out to scalp Wanderers

Dermot O'Mahony

THE phoney early season fare is over and the serious action commences tomorrow when Division 1A of the Leinster League kicks off. All eyes will be focused on Tullamore, where the once mighty Wanderers dip their toe in Junior rugby for the first time.

Ever since the fixture list was published during the summer, this joust between the All-Ireland Junior Cup champions and their Merrion Road visitors has grabbed the attention of all supporters.

Wanderers have recruited aggressively and in Greg Lynch have a director of rugby that is widely regarded. But will anything prepare them for the intensity of battle that will be hurled in their direction at a packed Spollenstown tomorrow at 4:30pm? Wanderers almost pulled off a Houdini-esque escape last season but ultimately paid the price for a slew of narrow defeats and the rugby HQ tenants will be anxious to return to the AIL at the first time of asking. But this is no easy task as previously relegated clubs such as Monkstown, Skerries, Co Carlow and Naas will attest to, and there will be a shoal of piranhas lurking beneath the surface, ready to pounce and feast on any mistakes or weaknesses that the newcomers exhibit.

Will they bounce back at the first attempt? The competition will be fierce with Tullamore, Enniscorthy, Newbridge and possibly Coolmine every bit as keen to lay their hands on the Eddie Egan Trophy before the even-more turbulent waters of the AIL round robin are tackled.

We'll know more at teatime tomorrow when the outcome of their visit to last year's runners-up will be known.

One of the other less eye-catching fixtures tomorrow, but nonetheless every bit as important, is the visit of Enniscorthy to Ashbrook to take on Coolmine, with the west Dubliners eager to atone for a largely disappointing campaign a year ago. The Co Wexford club finished third last term in their first season back in the top division and cemented their progress with Towns Cup glory in April, and with a youthful but talented squad they will be fancied to improve again this time around.

Newbridge shot out of the blocks a year ago but faded disappointingly to finish fourth. They are another club that have designs on the title and they will be expected to get off the mark when they visit Westmanstown to take on Garda.

Garda are one of the clubs that would consider survival in Division 1A a major victory and two other clubs in the same boat meet in Beechpark.

Visitors Dundalk barely avoided automatic relegation and then had to win a play-off against Wicklow to ensure their status, while hosts Cill Dara won promotion from Division 1B as convincing champions.

It's at this point of the year that predictions are made and I've been fortunate to nominate the winner for the past few seasons. However, this time around Division 1A appears to be particularly wide open. I'm going to put my head on the block and tip Enniscorthy to win Division 1A, with Tullamore running them close, but there's every chance I'll be way off the mark come the end of the season!