Sports

Twenty year wait ended as Accies crowned league champions!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

accies

WE DID IT! Omagh Accies Firsts celebrate winning the Kukri Ulster Championship One title after an 18-6 victory over Carrick on Saturday. It comes after the Seconds clinched the Ulster Provincial Division One title.

The long wait at Omagh Accies is over after the local side claimed their first Junior One title in 20 years with a nervy 18-6 win over a hard working Carrick outfit on Saturday.

Omagh...18
Carrick...6

Needing a victory to capture the Kukri Ulster Championship One title the Accies recorded an 18-6 victory over Carrick in nail-biting fashion and a delighted Phil Marshall and his side can now look forward to play-off matches with Leinster, Munster and Connacht as they bid to earn a place in the All Ireland League.

Tied 3-3 at the break, tries by the bullocking James Catterson and Ali Beckett took and extended the lead, while Scott Barr sniffed out another late try in a great season to put the icing on the cake.

"It was a bit jittery out there all right", beamed a jubilant Omagh coach, Phil Marshall after leading his side to the title.

"But I was confident that we would get a few phases together and had enough to get us over the line.

"It has been a hard slog at times, we have had a few heartbreaks along the way and in the seven years I have been here, but it has been worth it today.

"The guys have been building for a long time now and we got our just rewards today."

"Our aim at the start of the season was to finish in the top four and gain an automatic place in the All-Ireland Junior Cup and to get a good Cup run.

"We got to the final of the Junior Cup, were very disappointed to lose and suffered something of a hangover four days later against Dromore, but hung in there and to finish top at the end of the campaign is just brilliant for this young side.

"All credit to the lads, they embarked on a pre-season programme in May and continued working hard at training all season.

"This showed throughout the season with their fitness helping etch out several late wins, and helped develop our league winning seconds and also the third and fourth teams", he added in triumphant mood.

Continual rain over the past two weeks had led to a heavy, slippy pitch at Conneywarren, more suited to the forward orientated game of the much bigger Carrick side which used the hill and breeze to good effect in the first half, winning both the territorial and possession game, but never really threatening the Accies line.

A very quiet opening 20 minutes, both in terms of action on the pitch, and from the considerable home crowd, saw a few tasty tackles form both sides, with the Accies quickly realising that the Woodlawn men were not here on a jolly despite taking a bus to this, their last away fixture, and being out of the scramble for a play-off place courtesy of last weekend's results.

A late tackle by Omagh captain, Kyle Alexander, on Bailey, the Carrick out half, led to a penalty attempt on 22 minutes which Fionn McCormick slotted over with aplomb to take a 3-0 lead for the visitors.

Omagh clawed their way back into the game, putting a few phases together and trying to keep a good tempo on a difficult day for handling.

Slick handling out the backs allowed Barr an opportunity, but good cover defence saw him bundled in to touch a couple of metres out. Omagh spoiled the resulting lineout, hacked through and chased the loose ball over the line but were just beaten to the touch down.

Lee Murphy stepped up to slot over a well struck penalty just after the 30 minute mark as the game started to open up a bit, though the visitors pack had the nudge in the scrum in an uneventful half which finished 3-3 at the break.

Omagh received the ball from the kickoff, secured possession but kicked straight in to touch. They were pinged from the resulting lineout allowing McCormick to stroke over his second successful kick and put Carrick into a 6-3 lead after a minute of the re-start.

The Accies settled after this score with Catterson and Jamie Sproule beginning to carry more balls and make inroads into the home defence. Whenever they spread the ball wide, the Co. Tyrone men looked threatening but were denied by solid defence and a few handling errors.

Carrick were strong up front and tried to move the ball as they gained in confidence but were held out by a well organised effort across the line, with Omagh's line speed good and tackling sure.

Catterson began to impose himself, getting across the gain line at will and tidying up slow and back foot ball from the scrum, and it was a great effort from the influential No.8, that paved the way for the opening try. He started the move from a retreating scrum just outside the 10 metre line at the clubhouse side of the pitch and was involved in the move three other times. He broke down the blind, the ball was set and with Jamie Sproule crashing up the middle, he again took the ball into contact. This allowed the backline to move the ball with Stewart McCain, Murphy and Neil MacLaine all involved before Beckett and Barr combined to take the ball into the 22. Catterson and Mark Hopton-Brown arrived at the scene and made ground before that man Catterson again picked up, spotted nobody in the post, and drove through for a tremendous score. The conversion went narrowly wide, but Omagh had their noses in front.

Omagh began to use the slope and elements, challenging Carrick to run from deep, while tacking well across the park and denying the visitors any quick ball with determined effort at the breakdown and aggressive speed off the mark in defence.

Growing in confidence, Omagh began to move the ball wide and soon added to their lead. The onrushing MacLaine dummied and delayed a pass in midfield, creating space for Beckett to burst through and used his speed to slice through and touch down for a vital score. The conversion again went narrowly side, but most importantly, the Accies held a 13-6 lead going in to the last 10 minutes.

Richard Smyth, making a welcome return to first team action from the bench, teamed with Catterson to make big inroads down the blind only for a last gasp tackle on scrum half, Stewart McCain to dislodge the ball a couple of metres from the line.

There were plenty of calculators doing overtime around Conneywarren at this stage, as a converted try for Carrick would have tied the game, and with Instonians beating Ards comfortably, the home side needed another score to make sure, and Barr made sure a few minutes later.

Carrick refused to give up the ghost and went through multiple phases of their own with blindside flanker, McGonigle, particularly impressive with ball in hand. They looked to move the ball left and MacLaine narrowly missed an interception. This un-nerved the attack with a loose pass allowing the well positioned Brown to intercept himself and set up the attack.

A brilliant series of handling with the ball going slickly through eight pairs of hands with Barr on hand to finish off and seal the game. The conversion was missed, but the result was not now in doubt with the referee blowing a few minutes later to start the celebrations in Co. Tyrone and end the 20 year title drought for the Accies.

“A brilliant day for the club and I am delighted to be president on this historic occasion", beamed Omagh president, Harry Gilmore on a day when the first and second fifteens claimed their respective league titles, repeating the fantastic achievement of 20 years ago following a massively successful tour to Australis in the close season.

“We have had some dark days in between and it has been a struggle at times, but we have kept working hard and I would like to thank Phil Marshall and his coaches for their effort, a hard working committee who are continuously developing and improving facilities and a dedicated squad pf players throughout the club who have collectively throughout all the teams, ladies and men, put in a great shift this year", he added.

Omagh will now enter a round robin tournament for the provincial Junior League winners and with the Ulster Champions having two home fixtures, face Leinster side Malahide, and then Connacht winners, Ballina before competing with Clonmel.

Team: Alistair Beckett, Ryan Mitchell, Scott Barr, Neil MacLaine, Neil Brown, Lee Murphy, Stewart McCain, Kyle Alexander , Mark Hopton-Brown, David Thompson, John Sproule, Jamie Sproule, Mervyn Edgar, Adam Longwell, James Catterson.

Subs: Alan Heaney, Richard Smyth.

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