From the moment Cookstown’s relegation from the senior division in Tyrone was confirmed, they were made many people’s favourites for the 2012 Intermediate Championship.
The Fr Rock’s duly delivered but not without a scare or two along the way. Now they are back in the Ulster Intermediate final seeking to become the first club to win the title twice.
Down side, St Peter’s Warrenpoint stand in the way of the Tyrone champions who have already disposed of the highly fancied Doohamlet of Monaghan and Killeavy of Armagh to reach this point.
The 2010 All Ireland Intermediate champions can call on the vast majority of the side that started in Croke Park and with eleven starters likely to play some part on Sunday while John Gilmore, Jason Quinn and Ryan Pickering featured as substitutes on that occasion.
Cookstown’s survived a scare in their opening championship encounter of the season to beat the subsequently promoted Augher in Dunmoyle.
If they rode their luck against Augher, the Fr Rocks proved convincing winners against both Loughmacrory and neighbours Rock.
The county final was a dogged encounter with Eskra, with a replay necessary to separate the sides before Cookstown ran out convincing winners.
John McKeever’s side carry much of their strength in defence with Stephen Monaghan and Martin Murray marshalling their side brilliantly all season.
In the middle third of the field the Fr Rock’s have deployed Conor O’Hare, Connor Mullan and Barry Mulligan with some success this season and all three have the potential to turn a game with O’Hare shining against Eskra, while Mullan showed what he was capable of in his side’s win over Killeavy.
The presence of Owen Mulligan in the Cookstown attack is sure to focus the minds of the Warrenpoint defenders but with James McGahan in sparkling form throughout this campaign, Cookstown have another forward who can single-handedly turn a game.
Warrenpoint have the potential to cause the Tyrone champions real problems with captain Ryan McAleenan influential in the St Peter’s defence and midfielder Ryan Mallon capable of taking over a game at midfield.
One man that had the pleasure of climbing the steps of Croke Park twice in 2010 was Cookstown wing forward Shea McGarrity.
During that calendar year McGarrity, then 18, won the All Ireland Intermediate Club title with Cookstown and an All Ireland Minor title with Tyrone.
Now 20, McGarrity has been one of the star performers for the Fr Rock’s throughout the course of the season, shining for his side even when others have failed to impress.
ROUTE TO THE ULSTER FINAL
Tyrone Intermediate Championship
Saturday 19th August
Cookstown 0-14 Augher 2-6
Friday 7th September
Cookstown 2-13 Loughmacrory 2-4
Saturday 22nd September
Cookstown 2-8 Rock 0-8
Sunday 14th October
Cookstown 0-5 Eskra 0-5
Friday 19th October
Cookstown 1-12 Eskra 0-7
Sunday 4th November
Cookstown 1-9 Killeavy 0-6
Sunday 18th November
Cookstown 1-6 Doohamlet 0-8