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Strabane relegated for first time in 134 years

HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED....Strabane were crowned Senior One champions in 2014 but were relegated for first time at the weekend.

How times have changed….Strabane were crowned Senior One champions back in 2014 but were relegated for first time at the weekend.

Strabane’s Premier League status has been on the line for some time this summer and that time finally ran out at Drummond on Saturday as Ryan Gallagher’s team were relegated for the first time in their 134-year history.
 
The Red Caps simply had to win the bottom-two clash in the Roe Valley to have any chance of surviving the dreaded drop however they were to come up agonisingly short in one of the closest games of the season so far.
 
The irony is that Strabane will look back at this game and the ones against Ardmore, Donemana and Eglinton and bemoan how slender the margin between success and failure can be.
 
Yet while there may be some leverage in that, the fact is that the writing has been on the wall for 18 months.
 
Once the team that claimed the senior title in 2014 disbanded so spectacularly after collecting their medals, this was a scenario that was simply waiting to happen.
 
Understandably, replacing players like Jonny Robinson, Matt Bentley, Kevin Martin and Tawanda Mupariwa is easier said than done and the hardworking committee opted to steer clear of bankrupting the club for short term gain.

The problem however is when you re-group with fewer players, and let’s be honest about it, less quality; you really need everyone else at the top of their game.

The 8-team league is cut and thrust and there is no hiding place, however when Strabane looked around for volunteers to pan out the water, well you know the rest.

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Out of form is one thing but throwing in the towel is another and unfortunately they had plenty of both.

Again, ironically, it will be those who tried hardest who will have hurt the most on the way home from Drummond.

There are obvious exceptions whose numbers speak for themselves but kudos as well to Paul McNamee, Mark Gillespie and the others who no more wanted to play senior cricket than the proverbial man-in-the-moon, but did it anyway.

So what now for the Red Caps? 

Well, while relegation is always hard to take, it certainly won’t prevent the world from rotating on its axis. Worse things happen at sea, as they say.

Assuming that several will opt to move on Strabane can now concentrate on what they need to do to get back to the top flight as soon as possible but more importantly, how they can stay there and (in time) compete again. 

Because while all the talk about “finding their level” is very honourable, a club like Strabane already has a level.

Three titles in seven years is the mark of a side that should be on good terms with itself but they didn’t heed the warning last season and have paid the price.

The Championship will be a tough place because everyone will want a go, but this is a big club with fantastic facilities that now needs to answer some tough questions.

The only way is up, as Yazz would say!

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The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 15 Main Street, Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland, BT82 8AS