Sep 2014 Winner – Hugh Gallagher
DELIVERING a first Tyrone title back to Healy Park in twenty-six years was just what the doctor ordered for long-suffering Omagh St Enda’s supporters.
And for their 27-year old captain and practising GP, Hugh Gallagher, victory over Carrickmore in last month’s dramatic Senior County Final, courtesy of a last minute goal, was the perfect prescription to cure the ills brought about by over two decades of pain and disappointment.
Hugh’s emotional and rousing victory speech to the delirious Omagh fans who had flooded onto the pitch on that momentous 28th September afternoon after their milestone triumph, highlighted the significance of the achievement for the county town club.
The latest winner of the Ulster Herald Sports Personality of the Month Award, Hugh’s leadership and commanding presence in defence were vital components of the successful St Enda’s unit.
He acknowledges that it was an occasion which would stay a long time in the memory bank.
“It was a great day for the club and everyone was in great form. It’s been so long and so many people had contributed, be it players, managers, chairman, secretaries over many years without much reward.
“It was great to see them all there to share in the achievement. It helped to make up for all the disappointments over the years.”
Ironically Hugh doesn’t believe that Omagh produced their best performance in the final, but thanks to Ronan O’Neill’s goal they were able to inch across the winning line and claim the O’Neill Cup for the first time since 1988.
“We couldn’t really enjoy the build-up (to the final) because of
all the pressure I suppose but after it’s all over you are able to relax and take it all in. It was a great, great day.
“We knew going into the final that we had reached a consistent level of performance in previous games in the Championship and if we did that again then we were capable of winning.
“It was up to every individual to strive to give their best on the day and while I’m not totally certain that we did reach that level, it still proved enough to get the job done.
“In the end up we scraped through thanks to Ronie’s late goal.”
The skipper felt the triumph would help dispel once and for all the notion that the ‘townies’ would again bottle it come the moment of truth.
“People would have given Omagh a lot of stick over the years which would have annoyed myself.
“But in saying that it was hard to argue with the record books and the fact we hadn’t won anything in such a long time to prove the critics wrong.
“That was why the Dromore (semi-final) game was so important in showing that we had the character and bottle if you like to grind out a result.
“We took a lot of heart from that because they are always a very difficult team to beat. To do a Dromore on Dromore was encouraging heading into the final. But if we had went on and got beaten by Carrickmore people would be saying it’s the same old Omagh hard luck story again.
“Its satisfying that we had to beat the best to win it, and weren’t given a soft ride throughout.”
Omagh have had five weeks to savour their success but their
back to business with a bang this Sunday as they face the best, most consistent club team in Ireland over the last two decades, when Crossmaglen come to Healy Park in the first round of the Ulster Senior Club Championship. While it’s a daunting prospect, Hugh for one isn’t fazed at their prospects.
“They won the Armagh title with plenty to spare but I was happy enough to see that to be honest.”
“It might suit that they hammered their opponents and didn’t have a tight, competitive game, but I suppose we’ll find out soon enough.”
“We’re approaching the Ulster campaign the same way as the Tyrone Championship in that if you are going to do anything in Ulster you are going to probably have to tackle Crossmaglen at some stage along the way.”
“They’ll be heavy favourites and rightly so. They lost last year against Kilcoo but that was their first defeat in Ulster since they last missed out in 2009 but we’ll go in without any fear because we have never met them before.”
“Some of our younger boys beat them in the Ulster u21s as well so we have to approach the tie in a positive frame of mind. If we play to our potential we can make a game of it.”
For once the Tyrone champions have been handed sufficient day- light to prepare for their Ulster test, with recent winners having complained about a tight turnaround.
Gallagher is hopeful that it will work in Omagh’s favour.
“It must have been tough for Tyrone senior champions in previous years playing the Ulster Club so soon after winning their own county title.”
“There’s no way after all the celebrations we would have been able to play the week after. We enjoyed it obviously after waiting such a long time.”
“We’ve had a five week break now which is definitely a positive. The celebrations extended well through the first week and rightly so but after that we’ve settled down.”
“We’ve had the reserves and under-21s chasing their titles as well so that helped to concentrate minds. We’ve all pushed on and been training very hard.”
“It’s not often the Tyrone Championship is wrapped up as early with the county teams knocked out early.”
“So that has given us plenty of time to prepare and have a go at it which recent Tyrone winners haven’t had.”
“We feel this team hasn’t yet fulfilled its potential and there is a lot more in it. That’s why we have to be confident that we can raise our performance level again.”
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