Clogher Valley completed a remarkable 2012 by securing an unprecedented treble when winning the Junior Cup final at Ravenhill on Friday night with a thrilling 22-21 win over Ballynahinch.
In so doing, Clogher added the Junior Cup to the Towns' Cup and Qualifying One section titles won at the end of last season, annexing this Junior Cup for the first time in their history. Indeed, Clogher currently hold the Past Players Cup as well which they received for winning the Conference league and are only the second team in history to hold the Towns', Junior and Qualifying One cups, emulating the feat of senior club City of Derry.
Valley went into Friday's game as big underdogs against a Ballynahinch 2nd XV side that had never lost a Junior final and had the ability to call on senior players.
Valley skipper Barry-John Wilson was determined to emulate his father David who won two Junior Cup medals in the 1980s with Omagh Accies and he opted to play against the driving wind and rain - a decision which proved very fruitful for Valley as they proceeded to dominate possession and territory in the first half.
Indeed, the forwards set down a marker with a scrum against the head and `Hinch struggled to cope with the pressure. They conceded a number of penalties before Valley opted for a scrum five metres from the line. Another forward infringement led to a penalty try which Philip Galbraith goaled to give Valley a 7-0 lead after 18 minutes.
The impressive Michael Lawton showed that he was a real threat and kicked two wind assisted penalties to narrow the gap to 7-6 after 25 minutes but the large Valley travelling support were more than happy with their team`s performance against the wind.
The Valley back row of Wilson, Steven Baxter and Eugene McKenna where winning the battle at the break down, and Rodney Bennett, Philip Moore and Matty Robinson were causing all sorts of problems with their ball carrying.
Constant Valley pressure and persistent `Hinch infringements led to a "team" sin binning when their Number 13 was yellow -carded on 35 minutes. Valley took another scrum against the head and Jimmy Bates broke on the blindside before putting Aaron Best in for a try in the corner. Galbraith`s conversion into the wind fell short. Lawton landed another long range penalty to leave the score 12-9 at half-time but Valley were more than happy given the strength of the wind.
With the wind behind them in the second half, Valley started in determined fashion to take the game away from `Hinch. Valley were off target with a drop-goal and a penalty before Ballynahinch took a quick drop-out and the ball was knocked on leading to a Valley scrum. The ball was moved right to Ally Breen on the wing who kicked ahead and won the chase for the touch down. Galbraith`s conversion took the score to 19-9 after 50 minutes.
As the Valley forwards began to tire `Hinch were able to provide quality possession for their talented backline but the Valley midfield/defence was up to the task. Another Galbraith penalty stretched the Valley lead to 22-9 on 60 minutes and they looked to be on their way to a comfortable win.
`Hinch started to throw everything at Valley and eventually Rodney Bennett was yellow carded. Johnson Stafford came on as a front row replacement and McKenna had to leave the field. The `Hinch pressure began to tell and the forwards drove over for a converted try on 26 minutes. 22-14 with `Hinch in the ascendancy.
When `Hinch tried to run the ball out of their 22 BJ Wilson forced a penalty which Galbraith pushed wide.
Willie Stafford replaced Keith Todd on the wing as the game entered the last 10 minutes. Another `Hinch converted try made it a one point game but when Bennett re-joined the action, Valley were able to soak up any further pressure and hold on for a well deserved and historic victory.