COACH Michael Haycock has lauded the effort and teamwork of his Irish Senior Cup winning side saying that he has never coached a side with a better team spirit.
“On paper we have had better squads but we have never had a better team spirit than we had this year, the boys all pulled in the same direction which made coaching very enjoyable,” he told the Mail.
“Stephen and I met back in June 2010 to plan for the new season,” Michael said. “We knew that we were going to have to rebuild a little as we were losing some very experienced players. We were written off before the season had even started with people saying that the club had already peaked.
“We decided that for us to be able to compete we needed to become a team who wanted to work for each other and win in a red shirt. We knew that the younger guys had a lot of talent but we felt it was important to make sure that we held onto the experience of Godfrey Irwin, Andrew Barbour and Gareth Cuddy to give the squad a good mixture of youth and experience.
“As coaches we tried to improve ourselves by spending time on the training pitch with Irish Coach Paul Revington who discussed some of his principles in attacking the last third. We brought in Paul Thompson and Matthew Rollins into the training squad and there were signs early on that we could build a side that could compete with the best in Ireland.
“We knew that it was important to try and make training more enjoyable and also important to put even more emphasis on video analysis of ourselves and our opponents. We watched a lot of games in the build up to the cup final. We watched Banbridge and Annadale in the majority of their games in March and April, we also made sure we travelled to Dublin to watch Fingal before the quarter final.
“We never entered any game not knowing what to expect which is important as it is the unknown that catches you out. We also made a conscious decision that we could come out of the seven week winter break in better condition than any other team so when other coaches were giving their teams weeks off we were adding in sessions and training either three or four times a week in the gym or at the Meadowbank areana where we were able to get some matches when other teams hadn’t played any hockey in weeks.
“The boys responded to this so much and travelled through snow storms to get to training from Belfast and Cookstown. When we finally got back outside after the winter we were at a very good level physically and technically. This was the edge we needed to push on.
“With a new team we hadn’t the consistency to mount a real challenge on the Premier League but we knew that if we could target the one off games in the Irish Senior Cup in January, February, March and April we could maybe win Irish Hockey’s biggest prize.
“Winning the Irish Senior Cup is a massive achievement by the club. We had 22 guys involved with the set up and all 22 studied at Cookstown High School and are Cookstown people. We have a tremendous support who we owe so much to and on behalf of the management and players can I thank you all.
“We now look forward to the Eurohockey League which is the Champions league of Hockey we look forward to the draw and know we will be in the hat with Europe’s elite. It was great to hear the boys discuss who would be getting the man to man marking job on Jamie Dwyer or Teun de Nooijer who are the best players in the world.
“It will give us an incentive to push on and train harder and work more on our technical skills to make sure we give Cookstown a good account of themselves on the biggest stage of all!”