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Simpson reflects positively on ‘Straw tenure

 Gary Simpson's Ardstraw finished the season in second place.

Gary Simpson’s Ardstraw finished the season in second place.

ARDSTRAW boss Gary Simpson didn’t get the send off he had wished for but was nevertheless reflecting positively on his time at Vaughan’s Holm following Saturday’s defeat to Portstewart in the semi-final of the Northern Ireland Challenge Cup.
 
A few weeks back Simpson announced that he was standing down at the end of the season after three and half years in the job.
 
During that time he guided ‘Straw to four cup finals and this season his team finished runners-up in the Northern Ireland Intermediate to Saturday’s opponents.
 
That represented a highest ever finish for the Tyrone who, after 40 plus years of trying, have still to win a major piece of silverware.
 
Simpson came oh so close to ending that trophy famine on a number of occasions and was hoping to end the season on a high by winning the Challenge Cup.
 
But it wasn’t be and Simpson bowed out on Saturday with some mixed emotions.
 
“More than anything else it would have been great for the players to win a trophy,” he said.
 
“People have said to me about my successful time at Ardstraw but I wouldn’t call it that.
 
“The fact is I have enjoyed every minute of my time at Ardstraw and have made friends for life.
 
“During three and half seasons there Ardstraw reached four cup finals and finished second in the league but I would be sceptical about describing it as successful.
 
“What I would say is that progress has been made and I believe things are in a better place now than when I first took over.
 
“The players said that to me on Saturday and that was a nice touch.
 
“I think I have done my bit in helping to put Ardstraw on the map.
 
“After losing the Craig Memorial Cup Final on Boxing Day, the Limavady United manager came into the dressing room to tell us we had been the best intermediate team they had played this season.
 
“That compliment was a real positive for me and the players.”
 
As expected Saturday’s cup-tie was a hard-fought affair with little in the way of clear-cut chances created at either end.
 
Ardstraw bossed Saturday’s tie in terms of possession and got into some promising positions but all too often the killer pass was lacking.
 
In the end the North Tyrone outfit were undone by two goals in the final 12 minutes.

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