HAVING caught the eye in preseason victories over All Ireland sides Sligo and Rainey Old Boys, there is growing optimism around Coneywaren that Omagh Accies 1st XV will present a formidable challenge in the season ahead.
The Accies, this season captained by prop forward Kyle Alexander, will be aiming to kick-off their Qualifying League One campaign with a win over Cooke at home on Saturday.
Coach Phil Marshall has left no stone unturned this summer in preparing his team and insists his players, who have gone through a rigorous strength and conditioning programme, can’t wait to get started.
The return of gifted backs Neil Brown and Ally Beckett has added to the feel-good factor at the Thomas Mellon Playing Fields and Marshall is cautiously optimistic about the season ahead.
“We had a few good run outs in the close season but the downside is we picked up a few knocks but we’ll still be able to put out a good side for Saturday,” he said.
“We’re looking forward to it, at this stage you just want to get started. You want the battle to commence.
“Our fitness levels looked good in the friendlies and the players have shown they’ll have no bother going for the 80 minutes. It was good to see we have that in the tank.
“The boys who have come back have slotted in well and the secret is to help them adapt into the system we play. That’s the key, It’s alright having good players but if you haven’t got a good system it won’t work. It has to be organised and structured.
“We’ll take it easier on the players this week in training and we’re looking forward to the league commencing.”
On their return to junior rugby’s top flight, Omagh finished a creditable fifth last time out.
However given his developing team has a valuable year’s experience under their belts and a number of under-18 and former Omagh Academy players have bolstered the ranks, Marshall has set his sights on winning silverware in the forthcoming season.
“Last year was a massive learning curve for both players and management. We know an awful lot more of what is required at this level,” he continued.
“We believe we have prepped well for it and it’s now about trying to translate that into performances on the pitch.
“Of course there are things that are beyond your control but anything we can influence we have influenced. That’s all we can ask of the coaching side of things.
“We’re definitely targeting a top four and a good couple of cup runs. Beyond that if I can keep 20 guys fit and healthy who knows?”
Clogher Valley meanwhile hosts neighbours Enniskillen at the Cran.
FULL RUGBY PREVIEWS IN THIS WEEK’S ULSTER HERALD
OMAGH Accies first All-Ireland League outing in 17 years yielded an impressive victory at Bruff on Saturday.