Hockey: Cookstown’s IHL aspirations left hanging by a thread

CROSS... Cookstown's David Best fires in this cross during Saturday's IHL clash with Cork Harlequins.INMM1114-377SR

CROSS... Cookstown's David Best fires in this cross during Saturday's IHL clash with Cork Harlequins.INMM1114-377SR

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Cookstown’s hold on their third successive semi-final in Ireland’s premier competition has been left hanging by a thread following a second defeat in the group stages against Three Rock Rovers in Dublin on Saturday.

However, two losing bonus points against pool leaders Pembroke Wanderers and Three Rock mean that beating Lisnagarvey and Instonians in their final two games with a winning bonus point could give the Reds a chance of advancing to the knock out stages, should the other teams fail to win.

Currently, Cookstown sit fourth on six points behind Lisnagarvey on nine, as well as the two Dublin clubs who have twelve points apiece.

On Saturday at Grange Road, the Reds got off to the best possible start against the reigning Irish Senior Cup and Leinster League winners, going 2-0 ahead in the opening eleven minutes.

Raymond Miller was quickest off the mark, snapping up an early chance before Stuart Smyth poked home for 2-0 inside the opening 11 minutes.

Cookstown allowed Rovers to control a great deal of possession, however, and were stung by a Mitch Darling double in the lead up to the half-time break. The Irish international scored with two emphatic shots from the middle of the circle.

Peter Blakeney’s drag-flick a minute into the second half put Three Rock in front, but Cookstown were back on level terms in the 55th minute when David Best’s crash ball deflected in off a home defender.

Parity lasted scarcely a minute, however, as Ian Hughes could only clear another Rovers opportunity as far as Blakeney and he thrashed the ball home through a crowded circle for 4-3. Cookstown had a couple of late corners, but could not convert as Stephen West stood tall.