Institute's Stephen O'Flynn tells of delight at clinching league glory
Stephen O'Flynn has declared Institute's Championship title success as the highlight of his illustrious career.
The former Northampton Town and Derry City striker celebrated his 31st birthday in style, by helping Institute to a 2-0 win over Limavady United, while title challengers Bangor slumped to a 1-1 draw with Harland & Wolff Welders at Clandeboye Park.
With their licence secured, Institute can now look forward to taking on the likes of Cliftonville and Linfield in the Premiership next season.
Reflecting on a remarkable day, O'Flynn said: “As a player I've never won a league winners' medal. I've lost the title three times on the final day of the season, so yesterday was for special for me.
“I've played in England, in Europe and in cup finals but Saturday was probably the highlight of my career.
“We always felt our game was something of a formality. We had to go about things in a professional manner but we were always confident we'd get the win. We knew Bangor's game would decide the title.
“We had to wait on the pitch for the final score from Bangor and some of our guys were physically sick, they were so nervous. When the final result came through it was very emotional for everyone.”
With trophy situated at Clandeboye Park the Institute supporters and players had to wait until 6pm before they received the Belfast Telegraph Championship One trophy.
O'Flynn explained: “Actually, I think the wait was a good thing because it allowed us to saviour the moment. It was understandable that the trophy was closer to Bangor, so we had no complaints.
“We just stood on the pitch and talked to our friends and family. It was a really emotional hour and something that I will remember for a long time. It was a really special day.”
O'Flynn is no stranger to success, but in recent years the Cork native has struggled with injury. After playing professional football for 15 years the former Limerick striker had to accept his future lay in the semi-professional world of the Irish League.
“It's been a difficult time for me because I've had to get used to the transition from full-time football to part-time football. I've had a couple of tough years with injuries, so I'd really like to thank my girlfriend Shelia Morton, who stuck with me through the bad times.
“You come up against these obstacles in life and you've got to decide if you're going to climb over the wall or run into it. I'm doing my best to climb over it.”
Although he is yet to commit his future to Institute, O'Flynn hopes he will be lining out for Paul Kee's men in August.
“I don't see any reason why Institute can't do well in the Premiership. It's important that nobody gets carried away and thinks we are better than we are. We've no divine right to be in the Premiership, if we want to stay there we will have to work hard, but that talent and commitment is there.
“Paul Kee has got us playing great football and we've a lot of young players who are only going to improve.
“As for me, I'll sit down with the manager and the board in the next few weeks and hopefully we can come to an agreement. I've had a fantastic time at Institute. They've worked very hard on and off the pitch.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital