Sports

Accies await arrival of Leinster 'big guns'

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Accies await arrival of Leinster 'big guns' thumbnailOmagh Accies and their coach, Phil Marshall, welcome Leinster Junior Champions, Malahide, to Thomas Mellon Playing Fields in the first round of this year’s All-Ireland league round robin playoffs.

OMAGH Accies welcome Leinster Junior Champions, Malahide, to Thomas Mellon Playing Fields in the first round of this year's round robin playoffs involving the four provincial winners with the prize for the winders entry into the All-Ireland league ranks as a senior club.

The visitors were formed in 1922 but disbanded in 1944 due to a lack of numbers during war time, but re-stablished themselves in 1978 before moving to very impressive facilities in Estuary Road in 2006 opened by ex-Irish international and then Malahide native, Olly Campbell.

Nicknamed 'The Lions', the club has played second fiddle to the more established and successful cricket and yacht clubs, but with winning back to division titles in Section 2 and now 1, combined with the second string also winning their respective league, Malahide have established themselves as powerhouses in Leinster.

Playing in black and gold, they draw players form surrounding areas such as Rush, Swords, Skerries and even Dublin and with local grammar school, Belvedere College, winning the Leinster Schools Cup recently and acting as a feeder school for both Old Belvedere and Malahide, the future looks strong for captain John Shine and his troops.

Winning the league by seven points from the well known and established side, Enniscorthy, and over 30 from former powerhouses, De La Salle Palmerston, suggests a swing of power in Leinster junior rugby, as the new kids on the block look to attain senior status.

With a home tie against Clonmel to follow Saturday's match, and a final fixture away to Ballina, the draw has been fairly favourable to the Malahide club which fields three senior men's sides, an occasional 'veterans' outfit, a strong ladies side and teams at every underage level.

The Lions also celebrated a 20th anniversary this year. They claimed the Leinster Division 40 in the day, and similar to Omagh claimed silverware via league titles for both first and second fifteen's this year.

 

'Difficult proposition'

“Malahide will be a very difficult proposition, that's for sure", admitted Accies coach Phil Marshall this week. "We don't know an awful lot about them, but the fact they have won the league by a clear margin and with the strength in Leinster rugby at present, they will no doubt be a formidable force.

“Our targets at the start of the season were to achieve a top four position and have a good run in the cups. To win the league was tremendous, for the seconds to win their league was the icing on the cake and with the thirds finishing third in their division and the fourths showing up well, along with the ladies and a cup final appearance , it has been a great season," he said.

“With that said, we are under no pressure on Saturday. We have clinched the league. I will tell the lads to go out and enjoy the experience and play their game.

“The last three or four matches were nervy encounters, we didn't play our best but hung on, got a gutsy win away at Cooke when we didn't really show up and eventually opened Carrick up and got the scores to get us over the line.

“This is a journey into the unknown for us. I am sure these three games coming up will be a massive test, but a test we are really looking forward to taking on, and it is a privilege to be here." said Marshall

 

Absences

Omagh will have a few absences from their normal panel to choose from with Alistair Beckett and Ryan Mitchell both expected to miss the entirety of the round-robin matches. Richard Hemphill is available again a tough choice has to be made at hooker with Mark Hopton-Brown putting in a good shift against Carrick.

Marshall said: "We will have a few late decisions regarding the panel but I am confident if we play to our ability and perform to our maximum, the results will take care of themselves.

"We will need the rub of the green, a decision here or there and to remain free from injuries but I am confident we can do well. The last few matches told ma lot about these lads, they have the ability to dig deep and produce the goods when it matters."

The return to fitness of Richard Smyth is timely as it gives Marshall another ball carrying option, while Adam Stephenson should also be available, though selection this week will prove interesting with several players battling for place on the bench with a squad of 20 permitted for these round robin fixtures.

“We are fortunate in that we don't have to travel too far and with two matches at home, we have been given the luck of the draw, but these games are all up finals," said the coach.

"Its 'dog-eat-dog' in these situations, and while we are going in as underdogs with a very young squad, we won't be just there to make up the numbers, and whatever happens, it will be a great learning curve for these players."

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