COACH Phil Marshall took one for his team during the wild and delirious celebrations which followed clinching the Kukri Ulster Provincial Championship One title with an 18-6 victory over Carrick on Saturday.
Amidst the scenes of unbridled joy and the popping of champagne corks, the Accies’ triumphant coach sustained a blood injury to the head which later required medical attention.
The minor injury didn’t in any way cloud his thinking and, after guiding his team to once again become the best Junior side in Ulster, he said his overriding emotion was one of relief.
The last time Omagh captured the coveted top flight junior crown was 1997 when it was known as Junior League One. In the past two decades it has been re-branded as Qualifying League One and, more recently, as Championship One.
Irrespective of the title, Marshall said he was simply relieved his team had made it across the finish line.
“At half-time we knew we had 40 minutes to win the league and in the second half we came good,” said the astute coach.
“Our superior fitness levels told in the end. Once we got the ball out of the mud bath and spread it wide we had the winning of the game.
“Personally I’m relieved but delighted for everyone at the club. A lot of people have put their shoulder to the wheel to get us here, at all levels. Be that committee, youth, fund-raising, it’s been a team effort.
“For me personally it’s been seven years in the making and I have to thank so many people for their support.”
That said Marshall deserves a huge amount of credit for helping to turn around the fortunes of the Coneywarren club which during the past two decades had hit rock bottom.
At one point the Accies just avoided being relegated to Qualifying League Three and since then have been on an upward trajectory.
Marshall helped put in place the structures which culminated in Omagh being crowned champions on Saturday and qualifying for the All-Ireland round-robin qualifying series.
Next month the Accies square up to Malahide (April 1), Ballina (April8) and Clonmel (April 22), in a bid to secure a play-off spot that could secure a return to the All-Ireland League.
Marshall is looking forward to seeing how his players, who he paid a glowing tribute to after Saturday’s win, measure up on the national stage.
“This is a fantastic bunch of players,” he said.
“They have put their heart and soul into this, done the hard yards in training and I couldn’t have asked for any more.
“Today was a high pressure game for us but we came through with flying colours in the end.
“We are now looking forward to the round-robin series and I believe we can have a real go at it as the pressure is now off.
“It’s a great opportunity to see exactly where we are at. That, though, can wait for another day. I want the players to savour this moment first, they deserve it.”
MATCH REPORT AND REACTION IN MONDAY’S TYRONE HERALD, FURTHER REACTION IN THURSDAY’S ULSTER HERALD.
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