There is a belief among the Clogher Valley squad that they can gain promotion from their All Ireland division 2C at the first time of asking, according to number eight Callum Smyton.

The team qualified for their first-ever taste of All Ireland rugby after a 31-17 victory over Richmond in the play-offs, and ahead of Saturday’s first league game Smyton reckons they have what it takes to get themselves straight up among the title challengers.

“It’ll take us a wee while to adapt but we’re hoping to hit the ground running,” he said.

“We want to be successful this year again. We want to get play-offs minimum which is the top four. We’ll aim for that and hopefully we’ll get it, but by right you want to go straight up, which is the top spot. We’re ambitious and we don’t like losing!”

Confidence among the squad was boosted by three wins from four matches in the Ulster league, where they claimed the scalps of fellow All Ireland clubs Omagh, Bangor and Belfast Harlequins, and Smyton is looking to carry those impressive performances into the All Ireland league matches.

“We used those games as a pre-season and Instonians was the only game we lost, and it was a tight game,” he stated. “There was only seven points in it, and we could have got a draw out of that game, which would have been a great result for us because of the standard they’re at and the players they have.

“Again, it was good learning for us. We can take confidence from that. The league we’re going into now, they walked that league last year with 18 wins out of 18 to get promoted, so if we’re within seven points of them now with only playing a couple of games, I’m confident we’re going to get better throughout the season.”

Last season was one of the most memorable and successful in the club’s history, but on the pitch Callum reckons the squad is looking stronger than ever as they make their final preparations for their AIL debut.

“We’ve kept everyone from last season, and we’ve added a few schoolboys as well which will hopefully add a bit of freshness,” he said. “There are a few young boys that have come through. Kyle Bothwell has come through in pre-season and he’s been top class and put his name in there and he has a spot now. Everyone is pushing at the moment, and there are two boys fighting for every position so it’s going to improve everyone.”

Smyton was a central figure in the success of his local club last season, and he admits he cannot wait for the competitive games to get under way.

“I’m feeling good and ready to go. I can’t wait to get started,” he confessed. “All Ireland is what I always wanted to play to be honest, so to get a full season at it now is going to be good.

“I played a few games here and there in All Ireland but to get a full season with Clogher, I’m buzzing for it.”