CLOGHER’S hopes of securing a top four finish suffered a massive set back, at Donaldson Park on Saturday, when Donaghadee handed out a comprehensive Qualifying League One defeat to the reigning champions.
An injury ravaged Valley side made the trip needing to win if they were to have a realistic chance of a top four finish and an All-Ireland Cup place next season.
Valley spurned an early penalty effort that dropped short, but it was evident the Dee held the upper hand and, in the ninth minute, when they registered the opening try. A Valley attack in the Donaghadee 22 was turned over and after Valley missed several tackles Donaghadee opened the scoring with a converted try.
Valley continued to attack with prop Bennett particularly making inroads to the defence but there were no openings. Another Valley clearance to touch was skewed to midfield where the Donaghadee backs had an overlap. Even then Valley should have stopped the play, but again weak tackling saw Donaghadee score in the left corner. The Donaghadee kicker goaled the difficult conversion.
Despite these setbacks Valley had several penalty chances which they ignored in preference to kick for position. Though the line out was working well with man of the match and acting captain Sharkey winning good possession, the follow up drives were still unable to breach the home defence.
Donaghadee lost a player to the sin bin for persistent infringement, but even then their seven man scrum contained a much lighter Valley eight. The final ten minutes of the half saw Valley encamped five metres from the Donaghadee line. Several drives were held up over the line as Valley failed to score.
Valley opened the second half brightly, but were turned over and Donaghadee backs took full advantage as their direct running led to another converted try for a 21-0 lead. Donaghadee were still concerned enough about the Valley threat to kick a penalty to stretch their advantage.
Valley continued to attack with the switch of positions between Holm and Best adding a renewed direction to their back play.
However they still laboured to breakdown the stubborn Donaghadee defence. As the game entered the final quarter Valley’s fortunes were highlighted when they decided to take a tap penalty close to the Donaghadee line.
The ball was moved through several forwards but a strong tackle dislodged the ball and was eagerly snapped up by the Donaghadee backs who scythed through a despairing Valley defence for another converted try. In the closing stages another Donaghadee try came from another turnover in their own half leaving the final score 38-0.
This was among Valley’s worse defeat in recent years. However they will take some positives from the way the young pack, with Treanor, McKenna and Primrose to the fore, held their own against a much bigger Donaghadee pack.
Valley will be hoping for improved fortunes when title favourites Portadown visit the Cran this Saturday.