RSA Division 8
2013 Champion - Adamstown 1
Predicted 2013 Champion - Wicklow County 1 (5th)
2011-13 Top run scorer: Raj Valson (Balbriggan) 718 runs at 59.83
2011-13 Top wicket taker: Ali Qasim (Balbriggan) 44 wickets at 11.70
The predicting and analysing of competitions in Leinster boils down to five simple ingredients. A dollop of "How has this team finished in the league in the last few seasons", a handful of "How has this team been performing against this year's opponents", a cup of "What has happened in the club over the winter?", and a sprinkling of "Have there been any major signings or defections from the club?".
And how about that fifth ingredient, I hear you cry. There is also a bit of mystery, a touch of how does this club feel at the moment? Some clubs are growing and improving, which although it hasn't affected results so far, could do soon. Other clubs may have gone through turmoil in the past, but are levelling out now after finding a new level.
All these parts are taken into account, but even then, they apply much more to 1st (and to a lesser extent 2nd) teams. Many of the factors would make little difference to a 3rd or 4th team. A star all rounder has a huff with the 1sts captain? Disaster for the 1sts, but the 4ths just keep doing the business.
Taking all that into account - Division 8 is a complete nightmare, although a couple of teams stand out above the rest. Here we go, with our 2014 Division 8 preview.
Civil Service 2 have been pretty stable over the last few years. Civil Service are a fine club, with youth structures coming on at great pace. They have a great location in Phoenix Park, but it is that stability that dominates our thinking for this year. 8th in Division 8 last year, and 3rd in Division 9 in 2013, they look to be a bottom half team in Division 8 at the moment, and will probably stay that way for 2014.
Leinster 4 as always provide more questions that answers. Division 7 winners in 2013 and then...well, we've discussed that before. 7th place last year avoided the disaster of relegation, but whether there will be much improvement remains to be seen. Their recent record against Wicklow County 1 and Civil Service 2 needs to be turned around, as all three will be around the mid-to-bottom of the table. Perhaps 7th or 8th for the Rathmines men.
Civil Service 2 may have been pretty stable, but Malahide 4 are granite like. 6th in 2012, 6th in 2013. Although they have poorish records against many of this year's Division 8 opponents (losing records against Bagenalstown 1, The Hills 3 and Wicklow County 1), they should have enough strength to overcome a few other sides. It would be foolish to predict anything other than another 6th place finish.
This is where it gets hard. In our well-researched scribblings, there are at least three teams who have been allocated 5th spot, and probably a fourth. These four are just too close to seperate at the moment. Wicklow County 1 are another one with a rumbustuous recent history. The club is moving on well now, and has been busy off the field over the winter. They have a pretty good record against most other teams, but they were a Division 4 team in 2012 which skews calculations a bit. With some quality players, they will still shock a few teams, and it is difficult to see them coming anywhere but 5th. As we have seen though, that could end up being 3rd or 6th, and there is a big difference between the two.
Bagenalstown 1 had a tough year in 2013, but they are back and raring to go. They have been solidly towards the bottom of Division 7 in the last few years, and although they have only played three of their opponents recently (Leinster 4, Malahide 4 and The Hills 3), they have good records against both Malahide and Leinster. So there will be no further relegation; promotion will not come either, which means another 5th place prediction.
That brings us to our third pick for 5th place. As David Streek has pointed out on Twitter this week, this column has not been very kind to YMCA teams recently. The stats don't look that kindly on them this year either. Of the nine teams in Division 8 this year, their 2013 finishing position was the lowest - 3rd in Division 9. Against the other eight opponents, they have only won one match since 2011 (although they have only played six). But there is that "magic" feeling about YMCA at the moment, and whilst I can't see them dominating the division (unless Kamal Marchant drops down from the 3rds), they should be good enough for a mid-table finish. Let's say 5th again!
The fourth team to be considered for that 5th spot is Knockharley 2. Make no bones about it, Knockharley are another team moving upwards. The massive expansion of east Navan and Johnstown has helped the club grow, and the results on the picth reflect that. Two years ago, the 2nds were playing in Division 11, and after winning the Division 11 title in 2012, they were promoted from Division 9 at the first time of asking. It will be too much to be promoted again. And with the 1sts in Division 6, it is unlikely that the 2nds would be good enough to play in Division 7. However, they should still be good enough for Division 8. Whereabouts, we're not sure. Possibly 5th?
That leaves two more teams, and they look the likeliest to be picking up the Division 8 trophy come the Awards Dinner next Autumn. The Hills are a massive club, one of the strongest in the land. But The Hills 3 are something of an anomaly, being the second lowest placed 3rd team of a club in Division 1. Although they were relegated from Division 7 in 2012, a 4th spot last year wasn't too bad, and they will bounce back this year.
That just leaves our tip for the top. Dundalk's rise has been swift, and developments this season are stengthening the chances of that growth continuing. Youth cricket in Dundalk is growing quickly, and the ground is also coming on well. After winning Division 9 in 2012, last year was their first year in Division 8 - they just missed out on promotion by finishing 3rd. They will go at least one place better this year.
The first match of the season is on Easter Sunday, when The Hills 3 travel to Observatory Lane to take on Leinster 4