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Marshall urging Omagh to seize chance on the big stage

By Jonathan Bradley

Omagh head coach Phil Marshall has instructed his side to soak up every minute of tonight's Junior Cup final against Ballynahinch IIs at Kingspan Stadium (7.30pm kick-off).

The County Tyrone side have been increasingly frequent visitors to the home of Ulster Rugby in recent years - they were the beaten finalists in this competition two years ago, while their second string won the Crawford Cup back in the spring - but Marshall has reminded his squad that opportunities such as this are rare.

"We're on an upward path but it's now time to start winning," said the coach, who has Johnny Sproule, James Catterson and Adam Stephenson fit after they missed the semi-final with Coleraine.

"It's now time to start putting silverware in the cupboard because who knows when we get the chance again?

"I've told the players to have fun. They'll remember this for the rest of their lives.

"Don't be thinking, 'sure we could get here in the Junior Cup or the Towns Cup every year'.

"You might never be back. As an individual, you might get an injury. Somebody emigrates, somebody gets married, somebody gives the game up and all of a sudden the team disintegrates.

"Hopefully not, but this could always be it."

The two teams have already met once this year, a conference league game won by Hinch.

However, Marshall doesn't think that contest between two much-changed outfits will have any bearing on tonight's proceedings.

"To be brutally honest, that was a joke of a game," he said. "I rested 10 players that morning after our seconds game was called off because of the weather.

"It won't have one bit of bearing on it.

"There will maybe be three or four players on each side who played that day.

"What I would say will make a difference is the fact that we only have one out of our 20 who hasn't been at Kingspan before.

"They know the system, they've ran out on the pitch, they know what it's like. That's got to help.

"We're a club that I really think are heading in the right direction.

"The players, the coaches, the committee, we're all pulling in the same way and getting the rewards for it now.

"They're really hungry and they really want it."

Their opposition, of course, are no strangers to showpiece finals themselves, having been rather successful in previous campaigns.

Since the 2010-11 season, Hinch IIs have reached the final of Ulster Rugby's two most prestigious junior competitions on six occasions, securing two Junior Cups and a further Towns Cup title.

They overcame Portadown by a hugely convincing margin in the last four and will be hoping to complete the first leg of a December double for the club, with the Senior Cup final against Dungannon to come on Thursday night.

Belfast Telegraph

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