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Clogher Valley and Ballyclare out to earn spot in All-Ireland Junior Cup final


Coach Stephen Bothwell. Credit: Stephen Hetherington

Coach Stephen Bothwell. Credit: Stephen Hetherington

Coach Stephen Bothwell. Credit: Stephen Hetherington

Ulster teams have fared poorly in the All-Ireland Junior Cup with only two successes in 15 seasons, but their luck could well change with two strong teams in this year’s semi-finals.

And what’s more, both are at home with Clogher Valley facing Newcastle West and Ballyclare hosting Connemara.

Leinster teams have won 11 of the finals, but all their teams have already been eliminated.

Valley’s previous style of play which was forward orientated has changed over the past couple of seasons and brought renewed success after a year spent in Kukri 2.

They now have a lighter and younger pack who keep the game more fluid and in consequence more tries are being scored.

They have only lost one Kukri 1 game to leaders Instonians (27-26).

Their manager Ritchie Haire feels the club is going in the right direction.

Haire said: “Our squad is very young with two 18-years-olds and a 21-year-old in the back-row. Callum Smyton, David Stinson and Aaron Dunwoody have excelled and against Ashbourne (champions in three of the past four years) in the first round we completely dominated their much larger pack.

“We play a good brand of rugby and the boys are keen to train, most coming from Enniskillen Grammar where Stephen Bothwell also coached them, who has had such a positive influence over the squad in recent years.”

The backs throw the ball around with former Dungannon player and captain Paul Armstrong in the centre while scrum-half Matthew Bothwell and No.10 David Maxwell have combined well.

Ewan Haire is an attacking full-back and has accumulated a number of tries.

Haire is confident his side can deliver a top performance, particularly as the pitch should be dry.

He said: “We have beaten other teams except Instonians and Ballyclare comfortably and to win against Clare last Saturday in the atrocious conditions that suited them better has given us a psychological boost.

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“Newcastle West are a typical big Munster side who we have watched on video and they know our strengths.”

Ballyclare, on paper, would appear to have the easier task against Connemara but it is a semi-final and no team likes to lose at that stage.

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