OMAGH sights were always set on going back-to-back, admitted manager Diarmaid McNulty, despite the proverbial target being on their backs.
For the first time in the west Tyrone school’s history they retained the MacRory Cup, in its centenary campaign too – having also won for the first time on another auspicious occasion, as the gleeful Gortin man pointed out:
“It is unbelievable. Our first one was 50 years ago. To win it at the 50 and 100 is special. We did talk about that in September, I’ll not lie. We said we are going to put Callum Daly up the steps and said ‘What were you going to do in order to do that?’
“I was so, so proud of them today. The target was on our backs all year, everybody knew we were the champions and everybody was giving their best game against us.
“To answer in such a fantastic way with 10 minutes to go, I’m just so proud of the group.”
Dungannon did threaten to become the top team in Tyrone as well as in Ulster, with both colleges on five titles before this final, drawing level in the 50th minute, but Omagh ultimately had the superior scoring power, reeling off 1-5 to the Academy’s 0-2 in that closing period.
Ruairi McCullagh top-scored with 0-6, despite some surprising misses from the Loughmacrory lad, but McNulty had high praise for him, comparing him to a current Galway senior star:
“Ruairi McCullagh is like Shane Walsh, he can kick with both feet. He is an exceptional talent, and I trust him wholeheartedly. You probably heard me shouting at him a couple of times, but that was just to relax.”
Omagh can certainly do that now, with McNulty looking forward to marking the historic occasion in style: “I can’t wait. We’ll enjoy tonight - the school have a function set up for the boys. It is important to celebrate. I think sometimes in the GAA we don’t celebrate enough, it is ‘move on to the next thing’.
“It is important to celebrate tonight. We’ll recover tomorrow and train Wednesday and Friday. By that point, hopefully I’ll have enough information to start feeding into the boys.”
Dungannon boss Ciaran Gourley could have moaned about the absence of injured captain Fiachra Nelis – and also Sheehan Fay – but he accepted that Omagh merited their victory, saying:
“On reflection, looking at the chances they created in the second half, they missed a lot and still scored a lot – they were the better team. We just have to accept that.”
The Academy had three good first half goal chances but took none if them, but Gourley remained philosophical: “If we had have taken some of those chances, yes, it might have made a difference, but we didn’t – that’s just the way football goes.
“Omagh had openings too, they missed a lot of points; Ruairi McCullagh probably won’t miss as many again as he did today, and he still scored a lot. He’s a major threat for them, we struggled at times to contain him.
“Omagh were just that bit more clinical, the scoring chances we had, we didn’t convert enough.”