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Clogher aiming for treble

By Jonathan Bradley

Clogher Valley took a massive stride towards the Kukri Qualifying 1 title with an ultra-physical 19-10 victory over Portadown at Chambers Park.

The highly anticipated clash between the top two teams in the division was decided by second half tries from Clogher Valley captain David Sharkey and centre PC Falconer.

The home side, last season's league champions, entered the game trailing their opponents by two points in the standings but their failure to secure even a losing bonus point has opened up a sizeable gap at the top of the table with only five games remaining.

Despite the victory, Sharkey commented: "It's a fantastic result for the club.

"There are some tough games ahead and we need to get back to the drawing board straight away.

"We know that nothing is won yet.

"They like to throw the ball wide so as soon as we saw the weather forecast we knew that the expansive game wasn't going to work and that played into our hands.

"It was physical out there and there were big hits but we just seemed to ride the tackles more often and grind out the win."

With a Towns Cup tie to come this weekend, followed by the All-Ireland Junior Cup final, Clogher continue to fight on three fronts.

On the treble attempt, Sharkey added: "We have to go to Ballyclare next week which is not a place that's easy and the All-Ireland final will be tough so we've put ourselves in a good position but there's still work to be done."

Understandably given its magnitude, the game began in a cagey fashion with Phillip Holme's sixth minute penalty the only score inside the first quarter.

The contest became a physical battle between two formidable packs. The visitors extended their tally however when Holme successfully tucked a penalty inside the far post after half an hour and then added another just two minutes later.

Portadown responded with a penalty of their own from Chris McVitty but the home side's out-half missed a pair of lengthy attempts in the moments before half-time to leave the score 9-3 at the turn.

Six minutes into the second half brought the first try of the game through the impressive Falconer.

Holme's kick to the corner was chased enthusiastically by Clive Donaldson with the pressure forcing Andrew Chambers to put the ball into touch.

From the resulting lineout the ball was worked to Paul Armstrong whose pass found Falconer and the inside centre barrelled over the line.

Falconer was then involved in the second try when his huge hit on Ollie Montels ended a Portadown advance and, after regaining possession, Clogher once again earned a lineout in the corner.

The set-piece that had functioned so well all afternoon continued to operate effectively, this time the resulting possession seeing Sharkey force the ball over from a short distance after a series of forward efforts had been repelled.

Portadown called the experienced Barry Gribben off the bench, moving David Whitten to out-half, but the switch paid no immediate dividends.

Richard Hedley's side did belatedly produce a try of their own with just three minutes remaining, the first scored against Valley in seven games, and, just like those that they conceded, it came from a line-out with Gareth McCoy touching down.

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