Cookstown 5 Banbridge 4 - Kirk Cup at Steelweld Park
What a game. The proverbial game of two halves.
The Reds had to win to keep their chances of making the semi finals and it’s now down to Instonians to now have to beat Kilkeel by four clear goals to go through.
Cookstown started really well with David Best putting the shackles on Eugene Magee. A great flowing move found Mark Crooks who shifted the ball on quickly to Greg Allen and his cross was tapped in at the back post by Stuart Smyth.
Bann won a couple of penalty corners but Ian Hughes saved brilliantly on all occasions. A good long searching ball found Allen in the circle where he was unceremoniously upended and Keith Black beat Lennox in goal. At this stage Bann’s approach play was disappointing with passes going astray. Just two minutes to go until the break and Ewan Butler beat Lennox with a well placed drag at a penalty corner.
Bann had to throw caution to the wind in the second half and set up with an expected high press. However the Reds won a penalty corner early in this half and Allen scored from a variation.
It was all Cookstown up to this stage but things changed dramatically from here on in. The Banbridge fight back is well known throughout Irish hockey and the visitors bossed the proceedings now.
The deficit was reduced when Hughes was beaten after saving the original penalty corner effort. A few minutes later and Bann were awarded a penalty stroke which Dowds converted.
Again Bann came forward and scored again after a melee in a crowded circle. Squeaky bum time now. On a rare Cookstown attack the ball was crossed from the right and Ryan Millar dived. Lennox saved, but was alert to sweep the ball from a prone position in the net to make the scoreline 5-3.
Hopefully this was the breathing space that The Reds needed, however with 2 minutes left Bann again scored to make the final minutes nerve-wretching. Cookstown held out to record the victory and put some essence of pressure on Instonians.
A great game for the decent sized crowd and hopefully Cookstown can continue with this good early season form when they host NICS at Steelweld Park this Saturday with a 2.30pm start.