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RE/MAX Leinster League Weekend Preview Week 8

Division 3

This Division had an earlier return than the two higher with a full round of fixtures last week, Rathdrum had their bye week but Clane failed to take advantage, going down away to Arklow. This result now leaves just Arklow and Athy challenging Rathdrum for title honours and the last two round of fixtures are looking very tasty.  However, before we can look forward to those rounds we have another three rounds to complete starting with Sunday's fixtures.

The pick of these is the Kildare derby, Clane at home to Athy.  Clane have already lost one derby game this season and a defeat here could put a dent into their promotion hopes.  Clane will take solace in the fact that they defeated Athy earlier in the season in the Hosie Cup.  The jury is still out on this Athy side though as four of their five victories have come against the bottom four.  Their other victory was at home to Balbriggan. When you add in the weather forecast for the weekend to Clane's forward experience this could be a real test for a young Athy side. Clane do need the win more and TJ Ryan will have his troops very focused and hungry and that hunger should be enough for a narrow win.

Rathdrum should pick up five points against a Birr who face a long trip and will be turning their heads towards the Provincial Towns Seconds Cup. Their Wicklow neighbours however face an awkward trip to Clondalkin whose big pack are a test for any side.  If Arklow can come away with the win it will be a serious boost to their title credentials. In the other games Gorey should continue their push for promotion while North Kildare and Balbriggan should pick up the points on offer.

Division 2

Tullow face a stiff test in their quest for promotion on their return after the Christmas break with a trip to Kilkenny.  They face into the new year without John Murphy who has been called up to the Carlow senior football squad but pre-Christmas Frank Murphy and Martin Mazdimiski were showing up well and Tullow shouldn't feel Murphy's loss too much.  Kilkenny won't be challenging for promotion but they have a great heritage and will put a fight up to Tullow.  Expect Tullow to win a tight game in what will like a lot of games this weekend be very low scoring.

Enniscorthy could be sitting pretty at the top of table come Sunday evening as they visit Railway Union who have conceded a whopping 199 points in 7 games and have yet to win a game.  The Wexford men will be disappointed if they don't make the trip home with 5 points in the bag. The North Midlands derby between Newbridge and Portarlington should tell us a lot.  Newbridge, league leaders for so long, are paying the price for not picking up bonus points.  They have an excellent pack but are very poor out wide and are averaging less than 13 points a game.  Conversely Portarlington are averaging over 22 points a game.  If Port can match the Newbridge forward effort and that's a big if, they might squeeze this game however if it rains expect Newbridge to pick up the points, definitely one for the purists. Roscrea and Edenderry to pick up the points at home to Longford and Coolmine respectively and Mullingar to make a successful long trip to New Ross.

Division 1

League leaders Cill Dara face a tough trip to the sea side on Sunday as Skerries only two victories have come at home. Cill Dara though had the benefit of a tough encounter with Portlaoise last week in their Area final and should see the benefits of that work out this week. If conditions were favourable you'd almost fancy a Cill Dara bonus point but they never are in Holmpatrick and expect a resolute defensive effort from Skerries, Cill Dara to grind out a result.

There will be no grinding out results in Kilgobbet Park on Sunday as Seapoint entertain free falling Boyne, these sides had contrasting fortunes last week in the All-Ireland Junior Cup, Seapoint with an emphatic win, Boyne with an emphatic loss.  The Louth men are a proud team though and will not roll over, much to Navan and Dara's dismay Seapoint to pick up all 5 points and a return to the top of the league with it.

Navan face the toughest challenge of the top three, a visit to rejuvenated Garda who under coaches Kevin Dowling and Jimmy Norton have really turned things around. Westmanstown is never an easy please to visit and 50/50 calls always seem to go the home side.  This will be a real battle for the Meath side and for once they will be depending on their pack to grind out the result.  Navan to get a tentative nod.

Tullamore, with Gearoid O'Grady back in the pocket, entertain another side on a roll, Portlaoise.  The Laois side, according to reports, were impressive in the rain against Cill Dara last week and should be able to bully Tullamore into submission. Dundalk have lost their way but should have enough to beat a young Monkstown side. In the basement battle last years Division 2 teams go head to head.  It has been a steep learning curve for these two sides and Wicklow seem to be learning quicker.  Wicklow to edge a very tight game.

by Daniel Quinn, © 2008-01-10