Ulster Bank All Ireland Junior Cup Final Sat 1st February 2014 by George Millar

Ulster Bank All Ireland Junior Cup Final Sat 1st February 2014 by George Millar

All attention maybe be focused on the opening games in this weekends opening Six Nations matches with Ireland playing Scotland at the Aviva stadium on Sunday the 2nd February with a 3.00pm ko. Nearby in West Dublin on Saturday afternoon Clogher Valley will attempt to win the Ulster Bank All Ireland Junior Cup for the first time when they play Enniscorthy at Coolmine rugby club with a 2.30pm ko. For this Qualifying One club who have their playing grounds at the Cran outside Fivemiletown in South Tyrone this will be the biggest game in the players careers to date. This club that was formed in 1990 and they will celebrate their twenty five years in existence in 2015. The journey to the final this year has been built on three wins over three Munster clubs Kanturk (10 – 9) and Kilfeacle (29 – 0) at home and Skibbereen (20 – 9) away in semi final in West Cork. Their opponents, Enniscorthy from County Wexford in Leinster were defeated by fellow Leinster side Tullamore in the 2013 final. On route to this final Enniscorthy had defeated Clogher Valley 27 – 19 in the semi final at the Cran. This year Enniscorthy defeated CIYMS (25-0 ), Coolmine (30-22 ) and Portadown (14 – 13 ) at home on route to this years final. For Clogher Valley this will be their twenty fourth game this season. Their early season friendlies against Ulster All Ireland League clubs Rainey  (Lost 26 – 17) and Armagh (Lost 7 – 5) would prepare them for their assault on winning Qualifying league One, Ulster Junior Cup, All Ireland Junior Cup, Provincial Towns Cup and their ultimate goal securing All Ireland League status via the All Ireland Round Robin playoffs. At present they sit top of Qualifying One on 54pt, six points ahead of nearest challengers Portadown with five league games remaining. In recent weeks they defeated two of their nearest league challengers Portadown (19- 10) and Bangor (27- 0). Their quest to retain the Ulster Junior Cup ended when they lost to Qualifying Two leaders Ballyclare in the Quarters final by 8 – 6. In the Towns Cup they have progressed to the Quarter finals after defeating current holders Ballyclare last Saturday by 37 – 10. Despite a Junior Cup final coming up this weekend the team have shown the character needed to maintain their challenge for thee trophies in four consecutive weeks. With coaches Glen Kyle and Davy Black reporting no injuries ahead of the final, Clogher Valley will have a full squad available for selection this weekend. Their playing squad has a balance between experience and youth built on the clubs development structure that continues to provide players for the clubs three adult sides. In the three years the coaching team of Glen Kyle and Davy Black have been in charge at Clogher Valley they have won the Qualifying league One title in 2011/12, Towns Cup in 2010/11 and 2011/12, Junior Cup in 2012/13. They lost out in securing promotion via the Round Robin to the All Ireland league in 2011/12. The club had previously won the Towns Cup in 2006/7 and lost two Towns Cup finals in 2005/6 and 2009/10. Since 2005/6 the club have been competing annually for the premier club competitions in Ulster rugby.The introduction of four players from the clubs under 19 team in recent seasons has enabled a transition to take place within the playing squad in recent years. Several players including Prop Philip Moore, No 8 Ryan Wilson, Back row David Sharkey and centre PC Faulkner have represented Ulster Juniors in the Inter Pro series. Ex Ulster under 18 player and former Irish cycling champion David Dunlop has recovered from a serious injury to form a strong centre pairing with the experienced PC Faulkner. The Clogher threequarters is made up of wingers Andy Breen and Clive Donaldson along with last seasons Under 19 Captain Paul Armstrong at full back. Scrum half Aaron Best and out half Philip Holme continue to be the leaders who give direction to the forwards and backs on the pitch. In the pack the coaches have the dilemma of selecting from props Richard Primrose, Philip Moore, Rodney Bennett and Ronan McAleer along with hookers Kyle Cobain and Nathan Orr for the starting front row. In the second row the coaches have unearthed two real talents in Eugene McKenna and Michael Treanor who have come through from the clubs Under 19s in the last two seasons. These are two young players with great futures in front of them. Club Captain Stephen Baxter has been unable to reclaim his back row position due to the form of David Sharkey, BJ Wilson and Ryan Wilson.  Other squad players including Willy Stafford, Davy Speers and the experienced Ally Breen will make the final day playing squad. With numbers in excess of thirty turning up to train, competition for places has never been keener in the first xv.
Enniscorthy are a formidable side having won the Leinster Towns Cup in 2012 and finish Top four in the league over the last two seasons to make the All Ireland Junior Cup. They have lost half of last seasons team due to work and emigration. Coach Declan O’Brien has had to rebuild. The return of the experienced back and prolific goal kicker Ivan Poole  has strengthened the Enniscorthy squad. Their team is well organised and has pace and a finishing prowess in the backs including winger David O’Dwyer. Key forwards Sean Wall, John Howe and Ciaran Murphy are experienced players with number 8 Jim White another influential player in the team. They have an excellent record against Ulster sides over the last two seasons defeating, Donaghadee, Clogher Valley, CIYMS and Portadown at home. How will they perform away from home in the final. Can Clogher Valley emulate fellow Ulster sides Rainey (won 2006) and City of Derry (won 2010 ) to become Ulsters third winners of the All Ireland Junior Cup. This will be the fourth year Clogher Valley have completed in the All Ireland Junior Cup, 2007/8, 2008/9, 2012/13 and 2013/14. The team that keeps its shape and discipline will win this Cup.
So let us all get behind Clogher Valley this weekend in Dublin. If you can, get along to Coolmine and support the team. Club PRO Bob Beatty will keep those unable to attend updated via his Twitter account on the Club website. All support including messages of goodwill, would be appreciated by the Club, players and Supporters. So come on the Valley. We want this premier All Ireland trophy to return to Fivemiletown this weekend.
Good luck Guys