FOR Clogher Valley Rugby Club winning Saturday’s All Ireland Junior Cup Final is everything. It’s the missing piece in the jigsaw, the Holy Grail of junior rugby and perhaps, more importantly, another step towards the goal of one day bringing All Ireland League rugby to the Cran.
Standing between the men from the Valley and their bid for All Ireland glory is the small matter of defending champions Enniscorthy, who reached Saturday’s showdown in Coolmine by defeating Clogher’s Qualifying League One rivals Portadown.
And the Clogher players won’t need reminding it was Enniscorthy who ended their All Ireland aspirations at the semi-final stage exactly12 months ago.
That said the Cran men are going into Saturday’s winner-takes-all decider in fine fettle. Since defeating Skibbereen 20-8 in the semis, David Black’s side have recorded impressive victories against Bangor and Portadown in the league before brushing aside Qualifying League Two leaders Ballyclare 37-10 at the Cloughan on Saturday.
And the real bonus is the Qualifying League One table-toppers passed that testing treble with flying colours, and, more importantly, with a clean bill of health.
There’s no question the Valley men are currently in a good place and their entourage of supporters head to the Dublin venue in confident mood.
“It’s a cup we targeted this year, we got beaten in the semi-final last year and we want to go one step further and won the final,’ said coach David Black.
“The guys are certainly looking forward to it. It’s the biggest day in the club’s history by a long shot. We are at full strength. We played three mighty games there, third and second in the league and Ballyclare in the second round of the Towns’ Cup. We came through injury free and everyone is vying for a place. All’s good.
“The boys are beginning to put everything together and last Saturday we stepped it up another level. We are working extremely hard on the training paddock and it’s paying dividends on the pitch.
“Everybody’s playing for places. It’s an open book going towards selection. That’s always been our policy and places are there to be fought for. The players have taken that on board and no doubt that contributed to our performance on Saturday.”
The Cran men have been consistently breaking new ground over the past decade.
Now regarded as one of the leading junior clubs in Ulster, the men from the Valley have won Kukri Qualifying League One (2011-12), recorded a hat-trick of Towns’ Cup successes in 2006/07, 2010/11 and 2011/12 season and last year captured the Ulster Junior Cup for the first time.
For the progressive Clogher club it’s been one milestone after another. And come Saturday the Valley men will be hoping to write another chapter in their remarkable history by capturing the Holy Grail that is the All Ireland Junior Cup.
Defeating Enniscorthy would be the final piece in the jigsaw for Black and his determined, fully focused and highly-motivated charges. Saturday is Clogher’s day of destiny and the coach is well aware exactly what their opponents are likely to bring to the party.
Domestically Enniscorthy have had a mediocre season by their own high standards but appear to be a different animal when it comes to the All Ireland Junior Cup.
“We know bits and pieces about Enniscorthy. We obviously still have our notes on them from last year and last weekend we had them watched,” continued Black.
“Although it can be hard to judge, they may have had players missing on that occasion, so you can never be sure.
“We have a fair idea the challenge Enniscorthy will present but there again we’ll be more concerned about putting our own game into action as opposed to worrying too much about the opposition.
“The boys impressed on Saturday but when it comes to a cup final there’s more to give, possibly another 20%. In a cup final win you come off on your hands and your knees. I don’t expect it will be any different on Saturday, the boys will come off having emptied the tank.
“If the boys play to their full potential then it will take a very good side to beat them.
“Enniscorthy have obviously targeted this competition as well. I think it’s their third All Ireland Junior Cup Final in a row. They are not reaching those finals for no reason. They are a quality side, they know what it’s about, they’ll have that experience. And it has to be remembered they beat Portadown which is no mean feat. Like any Leinster side they’ll look to play a good open brand of rugby.
“But we have a lot of experience of cup finals, we know what it takes. If you play hard enough and well enough you usually get your rewards.
“In any game of rugby its vital to secure that first phase ball and our pack are certainly playing well at the minute. The added bonus is that we have good cover and the bench could well play a key part in Saturday’s final.
“Saturday is going to be one hell of a battle, that’s for sure. No-one hands you a cup for nothing.”
Kick off 2pm.
Updates on twitter at tommynetheryUH, full match report, pictures and reaction in Monday’s Tyrone Herald.