A season to cherish for Junior standouts
Two clubs at opposite ends of the spectrum from an age and tradition perspective produced the standout teams in Leinster Junior rugby this season.
Wanderers, founded in 1870 and for so long one of the premier clubs in the land, won promotion back to the Ulster Bank League while Ashbourne – who are celebrating their 40th birthday this year – completed a unique double in winning both the Provincial Towns Cup and Division 1B of the Leinster League.
The Dublin 4 club, who were in their second season out of the AIL, stormed through Division 1A of the Leinster League, winning by a massive 22 points and only losing their final game of the campaign at Cill Dara, whose need for a victory on the day was much greater.
Three victories ensued in the AIL Round Robin with a pair of comfortable home wins against Clogher Valley and Our Lady's Old Boys sandwiching a hard-fought success in Kanturk, with the Munster club accompanying them in promotion thanks to a play-off win at Instonians.
Wanderers return to the AIL in a much healthier state than when they were relegated two years ago and if they hold onto their core players they should prosper in Division 2B.
Ashbourne completed a dream season when they added the Provincial Towns Seconds Cup to their Towns Cup success of the previous week, making it three premier Leinster Branch crowns to display in their trophy cabinet.
Their 1st XV went unbeaten in Division 1B, winning by 11 points from Monkstown, who also gained promotion following a dramatic extra-time play-off victory against Newbridge. Suttonians were relegated from the AIL, meaning there will be three new teams in Division 1A next season.
Ashbourne completed their league and cup double when they beat Kilkenny 6-3 after extra-time in the Towns Cup final, the Meath club getting their name engraved on the famous trophy for the first time.
Their 2nd XV won the Seconds Cup by beating Clondalkin 11-3 and, not to be outdone, their 3rd XV won the McGee Cup, which is for J3 teams in the North East Area.
Gorey were also unbeaten but were held to three draws in winning Division 2A by two points ahead of Co Carlow, whose consolation is that they will accompany the county Wexford club in promotion to Division 1B.
Another Wexford club, New Ross, were impressive 13-point winners of Division 2B, while Swords edged out Arklow by two points to take the Division 3 title.
Naas 3rd XV won the Anderson Cup and Dundalk picked up the Michael Dunne Cup, while there was Towns Plate success for Gorey and Seconds Plate glory for Cill Dara.
A reminder that there will be a meeting in Browns Barn at Citywest on Tuesday next at 7.0 for all clubs participating or contemplating participating in the Leinster League next season.