Enniskillens Towns Cup aspirations for 2011 came to an end on Saturday as near neighbours and rivals Clogher Valley overcame the young Mullaghmeen side with an emphatic but hard fought 31-6 victory at the Cran.
Clogher Valley led 10-3 at the interval after Enniskillen were left to rue missed scoring opportunities as they enjoyed plenty of possession and territorial advantage however in the second period it was the more experienced and clinical home team that stamped its authority on the game and ran out victors to secure yet another semi final place.
Clogher Valley out half Phillip Holme gave his side a 4th minute lead with a well struck, long range penalty but James McIntyre replied in the 12th minute with a similar long range effort for the visitors. Enniskillen continued to press and enjoyed a period of exerted pressure on the Clogher Valley defence.
An excellent run by full back Mark O, Shea produced a possible penalty for Enniskillen but good advantage by the referee allowed the move to be carried on superbly by Gareth Beatty however his pass to a supporting player was spilled just short of the line and the advantage was over for the visitors. As the game entered the second quarter, Clogher began to find their rhythm and a slick move involving forwards and backs almost produced a try in the corner only for Enniskillen to be awarded a penalty to relieve the pressure. Again, Enniskillen attacked but the Valley defence was superb. Then came what was to be a significant moment in the game. Having soaked up a lot of pressure, Clogher Valley took the lead in the 32nd minute. A strong thrust by the influential home team captain David Sharkey was taken on down the right by PC Faulkner and when the ball was recycled and moved infield, no 8 Ryan Wilson burst through several tackles to score under the posts. Holme converted to give his side a 10-3 lead. Again Skins attacked from the restart and a strong run down the left hand touchline by Skins centre Nigel Johnston almost produced an equalising score only for a final pass to go astray. The first half then finished with Valley on the attack and winger Johnny McClure almost squeezed over on the left hand corner but the Skins defence held firm.
Into the second half it was all to play for but it was very obvious to the large turnout of spectators that the next score was going to be a significant one in the context of the game. In the 46th minute Clogher Valley attacked on the blind side and a delicate chip over the visiting defence was gathered by the ever present Sharkey who crossed unopposed in the corner. Holme added the conversion and Valley held a commanding 17-3 lead.
Back came Enniskillen and a late tackle on O,Shea allowed McIntyre to make it 17-6 with another penalty kick but this was to be Skins last score in the game as the Valley pack began to take control, particularly in the set piece. Enniskillen battled bravely up front but despite the best efforts of Jamie Johnston, Gavin Parke and Hazlitt Brien in particular and some resolute tackling by the Skins backline, the visitors could not gain any significant territorial advantage and in the 60th minute Valley effectively ended the game as a contest. Clean ball off the top by Sharkey from a close range line out found prop Phillip Moore who drove over in the corner and Holme converted to make it 24-6..
Enniskillen, to their credit, refused to throw in the towel and skipper Alan Wilkinson, who typically led from the front and picked up a hamstring injury for his troubles in the closing minutes but refused to leave the heat of the battle, made a strong run down the middle but the Valley defence , as it was all afternoon, was sound. As the clock ran down, the home team made one final surge and following a number of phases and good interpassing between backs and forwards, Valley full back nipped in under the posts with the added conversion by Holme being the last kick of the game.
For Enniskillen it was a disappointing scoreline, perhaps a little cruel after their first half endeavours and it could have been so different had Enniskillen taken their chances in the first period. This will have been a tremendous learning experience for many of the young players within this very promising Enniskillen side and occasions like these will stand the team in good stead for the future. The better team won on the day and Clogher Valleys quest of going one better than last year in this competition remains a real possibility-they will await next weeks semi final draw with anticipation. For Skins now it is back to concentrating on the all important remaining league programme starting with a trip to Ballyclare next Saturday.