Clogher power to Towns' glory

THE men from the Valley's of Tyrone finally had something to really celebrate as they got both hands on the Powerade Towns' Cup with this deserved victory over their Fermanagh neighbours at a well-packed Dungannon venue.

Clogher had one hand on the famous trophy on Easter Monday a year ago, only to have it wrestled from them by a last-gasp try from Coleraine.

And although Enniskillen and referee, David Armstrong, kept them waiting an agonising additional 15 minutes of stoppage time, captain Henry Richmond was not going to be denied this time around.

The final between the Kukri Qualifying League clubs had been dubbed the battle of Clogher's pack against the useful backline of Enniskillen. Clogher's pack certainly lived up to their expectations, if at times scrappily.

But the Skins' backline never really got the chance to run the ball, with outhalf Ritchie Finlay and inside centre Darren Cochrane, rarely giving those outside them the chance they needed to stretch their legs.

As it was, when it did come out to dangerous wingers, Keith Armstrong and Jimmy Moore, the final passes were poor and never found the intended targets.

Enniskillen had had most of the early possession but, on the seventh minute, Valley outhalf Stephen Bothwell stroked over a lovely drop goal with his trusty left boot to open the scoring.

Clogher then got on top, with their pack particularly impressive.

But it was the backs who were to shine in the 18th minute when a neat move saw winger Andy Breen come in on a lovely angled run, receive ball and seer through the gap, which had opened like the Red Sea for a try under the posts.

Bothwell obliged with the extras and Valley were 10-0 ahead.

It was important for Enniskillen to get a grip of the game but, in the few attacks they did muster, there were fumbles and they gave too much possession away with poor kicking, playing right into Clogher's hands, who kept it tight in the pack.

A penalty on 23 minutes by Finlay did reduce the arrears and he landed another early in the second half to make it 10-6, Bothwell off target just on half-time.

The game stuttered and stopped with a litany of mistakes by both sides.

Clogher just held the upper hand and, after Finlay missed a penalty on the hour mark and Gary Giles was binned for his dangerous high tackle, the Valley did not let their numerical disadvantage hinder them.

They enjoyed a good rumble and, on 64 minutes, Bothwell landed a good penalty to make it 13-6.

The Fermanagh side did enjoy a purple patch and there was a great break by Finlay, making 35 yards. But Moore came inside him and a great try-scoring opportunity was lost.

Valley were caught offside at the next tackle area and Finlay slotted over the penalty to leave four points between the sides.

Two minutes into injury time, he opted to go for the poles with a long range effort, but it was well short and those around the ground wondered would the option to touch not have been better, given there was obviously time left.

A right shoulder injury to Skins' lock Robbie Watson, which required the attending paramedics, delayed the game ending until 15 minutes of stoppage time – but Clogher were not to be denied their first major cup success since entering the junior ranks as a Minor League club in 1991.

And they will be trying hard for the double when they meet either Armagh or Coleraine in a Junior Cup semi-final at the end of the month.

Clogher Valley: Ali Breen, Andy Breen, D. Dunlop, P.C. Faulkner, S. Bates, S. Bothwell, L. Weir, H. Richmond (capt), R. Stinson, P. Moore, C. Robinson, D. Sharkey, B.J. Wilson, S. Baxter, R. Wilson.

Subs: G. Giles (Baxter 56), A. Best (Andy Breen 69), G. Andrews, R. Bennett, W. Lyons.

Enniskillen: M. Burns, K. Armstrong, M. Maguire, D. Cochrane, J. Moore, R. Finlay, D. MacDonald, P. Holder, S. Welsh, R. Beatty, R. Watson, S. Crawford, G. Hall, W. Gibson (capt), D. Buchanan.

Subs: J. Johnston (Hall 47), G. Beatty (R Beatty 61), G. Warrington, S. Bradshaw.

Ref: D. Armstrong.