We present a model for the OH megamaser emission in the starburst galaxy IIIZw35. The observed diffuse and compact OH maser components in this source are explained by a single phase of unsaturated clumpy gas distributed in a thin ring structure and amplifying background continuum. We emphasize the importance of clumpiness in the OH masing medium, an effect that has not been fully appreciated previously.
The model explains why multiple bright spots are seen only at the ring tangents while smoother emission is found elsewhere. Both the observed velocity gradients and the line to continuum ratios around the ring enquire a geometry where most of the seed photons come from a continuum emission which lies outside the OH ring. To explain both the OH and continuum brightness, free-free absorbing gas is required along the ring axis to partially absorb the far side of the ring. It is proposed that the required geometry arises from an inwardly propagating ring of starburst activity.