Clogher Valley are going into the season looking to consolidate their place in Kukri Qualifying Division One, after gaining promotion in a thrilling finale to last season. The Tyrone team secured promotion at their first attempt and coach Stephen Bothwell believes they have enough quality to remain in the division and avoid a quick return to the division below.

“We will try to stay in that upper half or mid-table and try to be similar to last year and play a good brand of rugby that the boys enjoy,” said the coach.

Clogher have had a strong end to their pre-season warm up, with both the firsts and seconds recording convincing victories over Lisburn, and will go into the competitive fixtures with a squad that is largely unchanged from last season.

“The squad is very, very similar to last year,” said Stephen.

“We have two new backs but neither is playing. One won’t be playing until Christmas and the other, David Maxwell, is on holidays so the team will be pretty similar to last years.”

The newly promoted club have been handed a tough opening to their season, with matches against last year’s league runners up Ballyclare and then Ballynahinch following on from their opening game against local rivals Enniskillen.

That early derby clash will give Clogher a chance to gain revenge for their last gasp defeat in the Towns’ Cup, and Bothwell is hopeful they can reverse that result.

“On Saturday against Enniskillen we need to compete where they are strong in the scrum and the line out, and see if we can keep hold of the ball a bit,” he said.

“That will be hard but if we can do that then we can try to play a bit of rugby and it will give us a bit of a platform. If we can concrete on our set piece we can squeeze something out of the match, but it’s a good one to get our teeth into. It will be about keeping the head and doing the simple things, and whoever can do that will come out on top. The first three in a row are tough. We have Enniskillen then Ballyclare away and then Ballynahinch away so it’s a bit of a baptism of fire, but we are going to have to play them at some stage of the season.

“It’s a hard block of three to try to get something out of but hopefully we will be there or thereabouts.”