A tie which should intrigue club rugby enthusiasts just as much as the clash in Cork for many reasons. Grassroots rugby website Knockon.ie give us their verdict on the semi final clash.
Ulster Bank Junior Cup Semi Final: Clogher Valley v Enniscorthy, The Cran, Saturday, January 26th
Kick off – 2:30pm
The novelty to start with: neither side have made the last four before now. Enniscorthy qualified for the competition for the first time last season, Clogher had only won one game in it before this year.
On their way to this juncture, the rural Ulster side drawing from south Tyrone and east Fermanagh have accounted for two of Leinster’s more expansive Junior sides at the Cran in the shape of Coolmine and Newbridge. Close games both, the first a high scoring shoot out, the second a low scoring nail bitter.
Enniscorthy for their part have taken to this competition very well, kicking on from their memorable Towns Cup triumph last season. The 26-10 win in Skibbereen was particularly impressive while in accounting for Donagahdeee in the last eight they broke a bad run of league form to lift spirits.
Clogher Valley are a great story, their league title last season surprised many, not least all those involved with Cooke who had missed out twice on the title and having watched Armagh and City of Derry rise to Ulster Bank League level were many people’s tips to fill the void. Yet Clogher and their powerful pack proved to be an immovable force.
Like Kanturk, Clogher are a match for any side at full strength but lack the depth to push on to the Ulster Bank League at this point. That was evident in the round robin qualifiers last spring where they lost twice at Skibbereen and Richmond but accounted for Monivea on home soil.
This season started slowly in terms of the league title defence and whether it was injury or a slight drop off in motivation to make another 18 game title bid, they were out of the running early. For that reason we didn’t notice them build momentum in the Ulster Junior Cup in what was a brilliant run to the December 29th final.
Even still, they were underdogs against Ballynahinch 2s in the decider but in a memorable display powerful rugby helped them win with their two first half tries coming from a strong platform at scrum time and Keith Todd adding a third after the break before a late comeback from ‘Hinch.
Since that triumph their league form has shown a marked improvement also although they have had games postponed in recent weeks which might have a negative effect on momentum ahead of Saturday.
Very few neutrals are suggesting Enniscorthy can do what Newbridge and Coolmine failed to do and win at the Cran yet Declan O’Brien’s men might have quietly turned a corner in recent weeks if their 37-22 away win at Dundalk is anything to go by.
Having won just once in the league since October, some were suggesting ‘Scorthy’s season was petering out but that result might change minds. Last season, it wasn’t until the Towns Cup started in February that we saw the best of the Wexford side.
They beat league champions Skerries and upset many predictions in ousting Newbridge on their way to the final backboned by a strong backline with Ross Barbour and Ivan Poole among others hitting top form.
In this competition Richard Dunne has been in good try scoring form, Alan Jacob has performed brilliantly at scrum half and Mitchell Dalton has kept up his fine form from last season. Their front row will face a stiff test from a powerful Clogher tight five here but they’ll be well aware of that threat.
Calling any semi final at this level is never easy and while there is a feeling that Enniscorthy are ready to produce their best for the first time since the Towns Cup last season, Clogher at home with a big support and a powerful pack made for cup rugby just can’t be written off here.
Match prediction – Clogher Valley by 1 – 5 points
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