COOKSTOWN and Eskra will have to do it all again on Friday night as they played out a turgid draw in Healy Park on Sunday afternoon.
The game ended in controversy as a late decision by Fergal Daly not to award Eskra a free in the dying seconds just 25 metres from the goal resulted in the game ending all square.
While Eskra can have reason to feel aggrieved by the late decision from referee Daly, they only have themselves to blame for not being comfortably ahead at that point having kicked 15 wides over the course of the sixty minutes and missed a penalty.
Cookstown dominated much of the opening half restricting the Emmetts to just a point but they to were errant with in their shooting with five first half wides to their credit.
The game took its time to settle not helped by a shower of rain shortly after the game got under way.
Both sides were guilty of a number of poor wides before the impressive Cookstown corner forward James McGahan opened the scoring after 6 minutes with a excellently taken point under pressure from 20 metres.
The game was a scrappy affair with a number of fascinating individual battles, Niall McGinn picking up McGahan and Paul Marlow on Owen Mulligan.
The next score of the game came again from McGahan this time from a free after McGinn had taken McGahan down with a trailing leg.
McGinn picked up a yellow card for the offence and McGahan punished Eskra further with a point from the resultant free.
The poor shooting continued with both sides guilty of inaccuracy kicking five wides apiece in the opening 18 minutes.
Cookstown were defending doggedly with full back Stephen Monaghan leading by example.
Cookstown opened up a three point lead 22 minutes into the game when Owen Mulligan had the simple job of tapping a free over after Keelan Kelly fouled Jason Quinn in front of goal.
Eskra eventually got themselves on the scoreboard in the 25th minute of the half as Eskra full back former Down player Adrian Scullion dispossessed Monaghan and found Ryan Gartland with a beautiful pass.
Gartland had only the keeper to beat but could only his chipped effort dropped over the bar.
Cookstown though restored their three points lead with Owen Mulligan who had been welled marshalled in the opening thirty minutes slotting over a free after Jason Quinn had been fouled.
Unbelievably this was to be Cookstown’s second last score of the contest as Eskra turned up the pressure on the Fr Rocks.
Eskra began the second half brightly but four wides in the opening minutes, bringing their match total to ten, didn’t help their cause draining the confidence of the Eskra team.
Eskra were dominating the midfield but the wayward kicking of Paul Marlow and Mattie Turbett kicking wides.
Things got worse for Eskra a couple of minutes later as they missed a golden opportunity to get a goal with an easy chance spurned and then a penalty missed inside a minute.
A great team move involving Shane Hackett, Paul Meegan and Niall Marlow put Ryan Gartland in on goal, but Marlow instead of punching to the empty net opted to catch.
Goalkeeper Martin Rea closed down the space on Gartland but a little to eagerly as he brought the big full forward down on the goal line. Referee Fergal Daly awarded a the Emmets a deserved penalty.
Peter Hughes stepped up to the penalty but his shot as little conviction as he fired the ball high but straight at Martin Rea.
The Cookstown management identified the problems they were having and made a double substitution bringing on Brian and Barry Mulligan to their attack, but it made little difference.
Peter Hughes eventually broke the deadlock with an excellent free from 40 metres to narrow the gap to two but it made little difference to the quality of the game as both teams were again guilty of poor wides.
The game sprung into life with thirteen minutes remaining when Shane Hackett finished perhaps Eskra’s best move of the game with an excellent point from 30 metres.
Within a minute Paul Meegan levelled the game up for the first time with another point finishing an Eskra move that developed straight from the kickout.
The Fr Rocks needed to respond and they did three minutes later with Owen Mulligan again on target from a placed ball after a foul on Brian Mulligan.
As the game drew to a close Eskra got the point they deserved to tie the game through a brilliant Cormac Arkinson effort, showing composure many of his forward colleague lacked.
There was controversy as the game ended as with thirty seconds remaining two apparent fouls the first on wing back Niall McGinn and then on an Eskra attacker bizarrely went unpunished.
These decisions much to Cookstown relief allowed them to clear their lines and force a replay on Friday night.
Both teams will need to improve greatly for the replay but you would have to imagine Cookstown are capable of a much better performance.