TRAILBLAZING Ayrshire clubs are leading the way in the Junior Football Leagues.

Last season Auchinleck Talbot won the McBookie Premiership in the first season of the new Ayrshire-Central structure.

And Ayrshire will almost certainly prevail once again, with Talbot the favourites but Kilwinning Ranges currently leading. Improved Irvine Meadow and Glenafton Athletic are also in the top six.

At the time of writing, Darvel were top of the Championship and in League One, Ardrossan Winton Rovers were in second place with promotion in thier sights.

Muirkirk are in the mix for League Two.

Talbot, Hurlford United and Beith Juniors are in the quarter-finals of the Scottish Junior Cup along with Kello Rovers from Kirkconnel on the outskirts of Ayrshire, who knocked out Irvine Meadow in the last 16,

Talbot boss Tommy Sloan said it’s difficult to put your finger on how Ayrshire teams are faring so well.

But he said: “At the moment Ayrshire teams are doing better. There are only five clubs from the Central Region in the top league.

“But I can remember when Pollok were at the top of the tree and we all had to try and beat them. The Ayrshire clubs are strong because there are good rivalries, we have Cumnock and Glenafton Athletic and that helps drive teams. The Ayrshire sides are in the top league on merit as they have worked hard to get into it. To be honest my focus is my own team but it’s good to see other Ayrshire ones doing well. “

Kilwinning Rangers boss Chris Strain said: “It’s difficult to say how we are all doing so well.

“We are punching above our weight this season.

“I would say the success of Ayrshire teams could be down to good management, investment and good displays.”

Winton Rovers manager Stevie Wilson is encouraged with progress.

He won previous club Irvine Victoria an Ayrshire League title and two promotions to the then Super First Division.

Wilson feels Ayrshire clubs are competing very well.

He said: “These things come in cycles, we had the likes of Pollok dominating a few years ago. Ayrshire is stronger now.

“That could be partly down to good support as the Glasgow teams are all competing for fans and are close together.

“You also have some players from the Glasgow area like Chris Lamb, who was with me at Irvine Vics and Winton, opting to sign for Ayrshire clubs. It’s good to see our clubs all doing well with the likes of Beith, Glenafton and Talbot winning titles and we have also had a few all-Ayrshire Scottish Junior Cup finals in recent seasons.”

Muirkirk boss Kevin Muirhead is delighted to see his team on top.

He said: “Our target at the start of the season is promotion and we hope to achieve that.

“Most of our players are from the Glasgow area and they have opted to join us which is good although we have some from Ayrshire.

“ It’s great for Ayrshire that Auchinleck Talbot have done well and we have good talent in this area.”