Cookstown Hockey Club will be going all out to bring the Kirk Cup back to County Tyrone for the fifth time in ten years when they take on Annadale at Stormont on Boxing Day.
“The Kirk Cup final is a great experience for our players,” said Cookstown coach Stephen Cuddy. “For some it will be their tenth final while for others it will be their first. It is such a special competition and Cookstown making the final keeps a good buzz around training in the build up.
“Having a Boxing Day final allows the whole club to go and enjoy the day and we are hopeful we can bring some silverware back to the clubhouse.
“Annadale are a very good side and have a real good mixture of youth and experience. We are preparing for hotly contested and close encounter.
“Our own form has been pretty good this year. There was a real sense of disappointment after our relegation from the EY Hockey League but our boys have used this as motivation to get better. I actually think we are a better team than we were last year.
“The regular hockey has allowed us to develop while giving some of our schoolboys some quality pitch time. The lack of matches and massive breaks between games in the EYHL was not an enjoyable experience and it certainly didn’t help the younger players develop.
“But if we are lucky enough to get back to the top table of Irish Hockey for next season I know that this experience in the Kirk Cup final will help us. There being so few games in the EYHL, every one becomes like a final and it is all about creating an atmosphere where our boys react positively to that sort of pressure.”
Cookstown Captain Greg Allen has been in sparkling form for Cookstown throughout the first half of the season, scoring 23 competitive goals to lead his club’s hot shot charts.
“It is fantastic to be back in the Kirk Cup final. Our boys are really looking forward to the game but realise that it is going to be tough to get the win over Annadale.
“We played each other at the start of the year and it was a properly tough run out in challenging conditions. We were 3-2 up only to concede in the dying seconds so we were pretty disappointed with that.
“I expect that they will have improved greatly since that game but I think we have too. We’ve been really good at crafting goals in the last few games. Stuart Smyth has really been leading the charge recently and the rest of us will have to try to catch up with his high standards in order to beat Annadale.
“We’ve also been really tough in defence and haven’t conceded too many throughout the season. All credit to Tobi Deppermann and the guys at the back. They have been so disciplined and calm when the pressure has come on, allowing us the confidence to get forward.
“All in all it has been a pretty positive turn around after being relegated from the EY Hockey League. We’re playing better and have had a lot more games to introduce a few younger faces to the panel.
“A winning medal from the Kirk Cup would be a great reward for a lot of hard work throughout the first half of the season. It would serve as a real encouragement to kick on and see if we can raise our game even further in 2017.”