IF last season’s All-Ireland Junior Cup final is anything to go by, kicking could prove crucial to the outcome.
Twelve months ago, Clogher Valley won the trophy against Ballyclare with a long-range, injury-time penalty from skipper Paul Armstrong.
This year, however, kicking duties have been passed to 22-year-old outhalf, David Maxwell, who had been in sensational form and while he admits he’s enjoying increased responsibility this year, he’s hoping that victory in the decider against Enniskillen at Kingspan Stadium doesn’t come down to a long-range, late kick.
“I’d prefer if that wasn’t the case!,” admitted the former Royal School Dungannon pupil, who has learned to deal with some nerves since the start of the season.
He explained: “I’ve enjoyed the extra responsibility of taking over the kicking duties and Paul’s been very good for helping me with that too because at the start, if I hadn’t been kicking well in the warm-up or on a Thursday night, I’d get real concerned.
“But I try not to over think it now and as long as I’m striking the ball well, even on a Thursday night or in warm-up, I’m happy enough.”
Having been part of the side who beat Ballyclare last term has also settled any nerves felt by Maxwell, and he believes that experience should hold him and his team-mates in good stead as they have the added pressure this year of being reigning champions.
“I’d say, there is probably more pressure on us this year as cup holders and because it’s Enniskillen with the local rivalry but I’m not as nervous this year because we’ve played at Kingspan twice last year and thankfully won twice,” he explained.
“I remember this time last year, I remember being that nervous that I felt sick! I will still be nervous this year with the big crowd but it is more a nervous excitement this time because we know we’ve done it before, we know how to get the job done.
“Obviously there is pressure being the holders and pressure with it being against Enniskillen.”
Victory on Saturday will mean a lot to Clogher in its own right, but Maxwell also believes retaining the trophy will help the Valley men achieve this season’s ultimate goal of a place in the senior ranks next season.
“Winning will give us more confidence to push on in the league to achieve what we want there and I think it’s been pretty obvious that has been our main aim this year,” he added.
“We want to go for promotion but being All-Ireland Junior champions is pretty special and to beat our local rivals in the final would make it even more special and that would give our confidence another boost.”