Clogher crowned AIL 2C champions


CLOGHER Valley collected their second successive league title on Saturday after brushing aside Ballina 41-12 at a wind-swept Cran.

Going into the clash, Stephen Bothwell’s men knew all they needed was one solitary point to guarantee the Energia All-Ireland League 2C crown and if Galwegians failed to overturn a massive points difference, they might not have even required that.


But if relegation-threatened Ballina were hoping for an easy ride against the champions elect, they were left sorely disappointed as the Valley men ran rampant, sending their opponents back to the junior ranks in the process as they dominated the match and the blustery conditions.

On the day, a hat-trick of tries from Matthew Bothwell, two from Callum Smyton and touchdowns apiece from Taine Haire and David Maxwell earned Clogher a deserved 41-12 triumph and the title which, had it not been for a few missed opportunities along the way, could have come a little earlier.

Clogher arrived in 2C full of confidence after back-to-back All-Ireland Junior Cup triumphs, an Ulster Junior Cup and the Ulster Championship title successes of the previous two seasons and it looked like they were going to repeat the trick of Instonians a year earlier by going through the entire campaign unbeaten after they won their first seven games of the term with a bonus point.

However, after a sticky patch in December when they lost to Enniscorthy and Omagh Accies on successive weekends, they bounced back in style by winning their next six in a row before a blip at home to Midleton ensured the title chase would go down to the final day of the season.

Playing with the wind Ballina started the strongest and had a try overruled for a double movement as they pressed forward.

Gradually Valley got the measure of the visitors and were held up over the line giving Ballina a drop out. It went long in the wind but straight into the hands of Ewan Haire. Seventy metres later his brother Tain crossed for the opening try. David Maxwell struck a great conversion into the teeth of the gale to open his account.

From the restart David Stinson went on a storming run, linking up with Matthew Bothwell who crossed out wide for the first of his three tries and it finished 12-0 at the break.


Eight minutes into the second half Ballina ran a penalty from deep, evading tackles to score their first try which went unconverted.
Undeterred, Valley returned to the offensive and after a series of pick-and-goes Matthew Bothwell squeezed through the narrowest of gaps for his second try.

Within five minutes Valley were back again pressing and as the big Ballina pack tired Clogher shunted them back at a five-metre scrum for Callum Smyton to get the all-important touchdown.

A brilliant box kick from Matthew Bothwell was caught in the wind causing panic in the Ballina rearguard and the chasing David Maxwell gathered and ran in from 50 metres to score Valley’s fifth try which he duly goaled.

Heavy rain and hail pounded the Cran and Ballina scored a breakaway try which they converted.

The final five minutes saw Valley in complete control. Callum Smyton charged down the wing, brushing aside defenders for try number six and Matthew Bothwell won the race for a touchdown after a hopeful hack ahead.

Man of the match went to hat-trick man Matthew Bothwell.

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