Final agony for Valley men

Valley's jack Stott off loads the ball in the tackle      SH01

Valley’s Jack Stott off loads the ball in the tackle


Clogher Valley    13
Ballynahinch II    17

By Tommy Nethery

IN the end it quite literally came down to the bounce of a ball as a gallant Clogher Valley failed to retain the Powerade Towns’ Cup against Ballynahinch Seconds at a sun-kissed Kingspan Stadium on Easter Monday.

The eagerly-anticipated showpiece decider proved a contest of fine margins, a fact underlined in the final seconds of the first half when Hinch skipper James McBriar scored his side’s second try.

A matter of moments after out-half Philip Holme dived over at one end to give Clogher the lead for the first time, McBriar chipped over the Valley defence and raced through to collect the ball which bounced perfectly, if somewhat fortuitously, into his arms. The Hinch captain scampered round behind the posts to touch down before adding the extras.

Not only did that crucial score send the Down men into the interval with the psychological advantage but it handed them a four-point lead which they maintained to the final whistle.
It was a pivotal moment as the Cran men ultimately failed to capture the famed old trophy for a fifth time in what is the club’s Silver Jubilee year.

It was Hinch who hit the ground running to put the Clogher defence under immense scrutiny from the off.

Initially the Valley men repelled the early Hinch thrust but with seven minutes gone the Tyrone side’s defence creaked following a catch and drive and scrum-half Chris Gibson hit winger Chris Orr in full flight to scamper over under the posts. McBriar tagged on the extras to hand the favourites the early initiative.

The Ballymacarn Park side remained the dominant force as Clogher struggled to get out of their own half.

On the odd occasion when things looked like they were taking shape for the Cran men all too often a promising situation was undone by a handling error or lack of support.

Almost half an hour had elapsed before Valley outfit threatened their opponent’s line but when Hinch were penalised for offside, out-half Holme pushed his placed kick a metre the wrong side of the post.

Valley though were growing in confidence and after two Hinch backs made a hash of attempting to keep Holme’s kick in touch, Clogher struck with devastating effect.

The Valley men secured ball at the line-out, their forwards and backs combined to punch holes in the opposing defence and when the time was right back row forward Ryan Wilson barged over for a well worked team try. Holme missed the conversion but the Valley men were up and running and hungry for more.

In fact, the Cran men crossed the try line a second time less than five minutes later. A brilliant break and kick through by right winger Andy Breen was hoovered up by charging second-rower Micheal Treanor. The ball was quickly recycled and Holme darted through the gap to touch down. Full back Paul Armstrong failed from the tee but Clogher were back in business and set to go into the interval with a three-point advantage.

Or so everyone thought. Straight from the kick off, Valley hit the snooze button and within 60 seconds McBriar chipped forward and gathered the bouncing ball to race behind the posts. The Hinch skipper added the conversion to give his team a crucial 14-10 lead.

McBriar failed with a penalty attempt early in the new half but it was a resurgent Clogher who now were dictating matters to force their opponents onto the back foot. The Valley men turned the screw and the pressure reaped reward when Hinch full back Michael Carson was sin-binned for cynical play and Holme converted the penalty kick to leave just a point between the sides.

Despite the extra man, Clogher failed to take advantage although the Valley faithful were buoyed by two scintillating breaks. One by winger Clive Donaldson that took play from one 22 to the other and another by centre Jack Stott, scooping up the ball with one hand to gallop a full 40 yards before off-loading to Breen, who was bundled into touch with the line beckoning.

The Hinch defence remained steadfast as Carson returned to the action only for team-mate John Gunson to become the second Hinch player to be sent to the bin for a deliberate knock-on.

In his absence McBriar dropped into the pocket to whack over a splendid 30-yard drop goal with just nine minutes remaining to loosen Valley’s grip on the coveted silverware.

With the clock ticking Clogher almost certainly needed a third try but a bruising encounter had taken its toll on both sets of players. Tired bodies and handling errors were now the order of the day as the Cran men’s challenge ultimately ran out of steam.

Paul Armstrong, Andrew Breen, Jack Stott, Philip Falconer, Clive Donaldson, Philip Holme, Aaron Best (capt), David Sharkey, Allister Treiner, Nathan Orr, Eugene McKenna, Michael Treanor, Rodney Bennett, Kyle Cobane, Philip Moore.
Subs: Ronan McAleer, Richard Primrose, Mark McKenna, Ryan Wilson, Mark Ellis.

Michael Carson, Aaron Ferris, David Nicholson, David Harris, Chris Orr, David Nicholson, James McBriar (capt), Chris Gibson, Gareth Gill, Joshua Donaldson, Keith Dickson, Chris Napier, Andrew Simpson, Conor Piper, Andrew Harper, Christopher Stevenson.
Subs: Connor Philips, Kelvin Hamilton, Owen Jarvie, Thomas Donnan, Josh Gunson.

Referee: Peter Martin (Belfast)


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