Cookstown may have had a packed end to February, but it was nothing to the month ahead as they take on the very best teams in the Irish Hockey League pool stages.
Matches against five of the best teams in Ireland will test Michael Haycock and Stephen Cuddy’s charges to the fullest as they look to get over the testing end to the Ulster Premier League campaign.
First up for the Reds are Steelweld Park contests against perennial contenders Pembroke Wanderers and Munster kingpins Cork Harlequins on March 1 and 8 at 2.30pm.
The South Dubliners, Pembroke, ended the domestic season in third place, seven points off the pace of champions Monkstown. Nevertheless, the two-time IHL winners are never to be unestimated as recent matches between the two sides can attest:
“When we played them earlier on the year we were disappointed with the intensity we brought to the game. We got well beaten that day 7-3 and we know we will need to be at our best to win the game,” said Coach Michael Haycock.
“This year’s IHL is something we have been preparing hard for since two weeks before Christmas. We have been given a very difficult group with three out of the four teams involved in last weekend’s Irish Cup semi-finals as upcoming opponents.
“That is exciting for our guys as they want to test themselves against the very best teams in Ireland. This week we have Pembroke Wanderers who were beaten finalists last Sunday so they will be hurting and will be determined to get back to winning ways.
“Pembroke have quality all over the place but we need to try and keep Conor Harte and Alan Sothern quiet. If we can do that we have the opportunity to show that we are still one of the top teams in Ireland.
“We have match winners throughout our team we just need to make sure to keep our defensive discipline.”
Following the Pembroke Wanderers and Cork Harlequins games, Cookstown face a difficult away match against Irish Senio Cup winners Three Rock Rovers. Thereafter, they host Ulster rivals Instonians on March 22 before ending their pool campaign with 2012 champions, Lisnagarvey.
Cookstown v Pembroke
Cookstown v Harlequins
Three Rock v Cookstown
Cookstown v Instonians
Lisnagarvey v Cookstown