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David Sharkey backing Clogher Valley to move up in world

By Jonathan Bradley

Ahead of what could be a defining month for Clogher Valley, the County Fermanagh side's captain David Sharkey has called on his teammates to bounce back from the weekend's defeat to Wanderers in the All-Ireland League round robin qualifiers.

The reverse means that the Kukri Qualifying 1 champions' home tie with OLBC on April 5 is a must-win if they are to realise their ambitions of promotion to senior rugby and Sharkey said: "We have a really tough couple of weeks ahead but an enjoyable couple of weeks as well because these are the size of games that you want to be playing in.

"We have two games left to play and we need wins if we're to go up but I think we have the players to do that."

David Black's side were always likely to face a tough assignment against Wanderers – considered by many to be the best junior side in Ireland – on Saturday and so it proved when they went down 21-7.

Playing on the back pitch at the Aviva Stadium, a pair of penalties from Peter Brougham had the Leinster champions leading 6-0 at the break.

Shortly after the turn, however, Paul Armstrong's try was converted by Phillip Holme to give the visitors a one point lead.

Wanderers ensured it would be a short-lived advantage when Brougham charged down a kick and was able to run in from the edge of the 22 and a converted score from Michael Kevany a quarter of an hour later denied Clogher even the consolation of a bonus point.

Despite the setback, Sharkey believes they can take much from the performance.

"I actually think it was one of our better performances recently," said the flanker.

"They're a very strong side and they have a lot of depth but I thought we played well and fronted up when we had to.

"They were maybe a bit more clinical than us and had we taken a few more of our opportunities then the game was there for us to win.

"We made a few errors when we had overlaps and then they got the charge down which ended up being important.

"We can build on the performance though and we just have to play well in our other two games and see what happens."

With second place in the round robin qualifying for a promotion play-off against the second from bottom team in All-Ireland League 2B up for grabs, there is still much to play for when the competition resumes next month but first Clogher must negotiate a Powerade Towns Cup semi-final against Ballymena II this weekend.

Having lost out on the All-Ireland Junior Cup following a final defeat to Enniscorthy back in February, Sharkey is keen to add more silverware to the Qualifying 1 title but knows that Ballymena are a difficult proposition.

He added: "As a player you want to win trophies so that's what we'll be hoping to do in the Towns Cup.

"It's always nice to get a run out at Ravenhill but we know that Ballymena are going to be a good side."

Having already won the league, success in the Towns Cup would equal the feat of Clogher's double winning side from two seasons ago and Sharkey believes that this squad has even more potential.

"I think we have a better balance than we had two years ago, definitely. We have a good mix of experience and youth with the young guys coming through having a great enthusiasm for the club.

"We want to build every season and we've been doing that. Everything is going well for the club.

"When you look at how we got to the All-Ireland Junior Cup final you can see that we're more competitive on the pitch."

Belfast Telegraph

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