Clogher Valley are looking to improve on last season’s disappointing league performances, with captain Michael Traynor vowing to bring the pride back to the Cran.
Clogher had become accustomed to challenging for titles in Kukri Qualifying League One, but from the outset last season the Fivemiletown club were struggling to match their previous high standards.
Performances on their own pitch were especially disappointing, and Traynor is determined to put that right.
“Last season was definitely disappointing and we lost most of our games at home,” he recalled.
“This season I think it’s about getting a bit of pride back and trying to win all our home games. Last year we did well in the All Ireland Junior Cup and got to the semi-final but we don’t have that this season. Previously that was a distraction from the league and an opportunity to let our hair down and go at it, but this season I think our home league games have to be the priority.”
Davy Speers has returned to the squad after a spell away from the club, and although Philip Wilson and Eugene McKenna have departed, Michael Traynor believes they are in better shape now than they were twelve months ago.
“I think we are stronger than last season,” he said.
“We have tried to recruit players that would help the seconds and thirds and build the club up, and there has been a few players that we have signed that could push into the firsts. The last few season the seconds maybe haven’t got as much attention as they should have, but this year we are going in with the attitude that if the seconds are strong it will push the firsts on and as a result make them even stronger.
“We have a lot better numbers in training as well. We are getting thirty plus players where last season it might have been high teens or twenty. It’s all about keeping the numbers up at training and getting that competition going.”
In addition to a few new faces on the pitch, Hemi Taukiri will be coming on board as a new head coach. Michael admits he is looking forward to the arrival of the New Zealander.
“We are very excited about it. Down through the years we have had a strong pack. That has never been our problem but the backs have always been weaker than the forwards, and hopefully he can bring the backs up to a different level. He played for the Maori All Blacks and hopefully he has some new ideas and different ways of looking at it.”
Clogher Valley’s first game of the campaign is on Saturday against Cooke. Twice last season they fell short against the Belfast team, but Michael is looking to reverse those results this weekend.
“For me that was probably the most disappointing loss of last season,” he said. “We kicked the ball and played to their strengths and they were able to counter us. We were winning by a point and they came back and scored a try in the last few minutes of the game. We had the bonus point and then they scored again. Then they beat us in the second game down there as well so hopefully we can change the result this time.”