TWO first half goals by penalty corner specialist Ross McCandless did the damage in what was, everywhere except the score line, an evenly fought contest at Havelock Park on Saturday.
One of the few games to survive the snow, Cookstown were missing key players Dicky Nelson, Philip Morton, Dan Crooks, Andy McWhirter and Davey Atkinson, but still put in a decent performance against the league leaders.
Banbridge, who have only dropped two points all season (against Cookstown), started strongly but were met with stern resistance by the Tyrone men’s midfield and defence. At the other end the running threat of Tony Johnston, Ryan Millar and Mark Rooney carved a number of opportunities but Ryan O’Neill in the Bann goals proved a difficult man to beat.
Bann took lead midway through the half by McCandless’s unstoppable short and quickly doubled their lead through the same source. Nevertheless, Cookstown continued to forge chances but were lacking in the final third.
The home side seemed to have put pay to the game when a mistake in the Cookstown defence handed them a 3-0 lead at half time, but the Tyrone men showed real mettle to bring the match back to 3-2. First, Andy Smyth showed a superb turn of pace to lose his marker and fire in a reverse of which Eugene Magee in his prime would have been proud.
This was quickly followed up by Mark Rooney’s third goal of the season for the Seconds; Stevie Allen and Tony Johnston did all the hard work to open up the defence before the Rainey Endowed student, playing in a deeper role than usual, finished strongly.
The Reds – playing in alien white shirts – seemed to run out of puff after their exertions to get back in the game and Bann invited them on, dropping deep and using their speedy wingers to make yardage down the wide channels. This soon paid off with two further goals taking the tie away from Cookstown.
Cookstown II: Michael Anderson, Paul Morrow, Gavin Butler, Andrew Ferguson, Mark Wilson, Steven Allen, Mark Rooney, Thomas Hutchinson, Ian Johnston, Tony Johnston, Andrew Smyth, Ryan Millar
Man of the Match: Mark Rooney; formed a great partnership in the midfield with the returning Hutchinson.
Many thanks to Stevie Smyth for umpiring.
This week Cookstown II face a tough tie in Dublin against Corinthian HC in the second round of the Irish Junior Cup. A replay of last season’s final at UCD, Cookstown will be eager for revenge after losing out on the trophy on penalty flicks.
IRISH JUNIOR CUP, SECOND ROUND
Pembroke Wanderers v Bangor
Fingal v Banbridge
Annadale v UCC
Cork Church of Ireland v Belfast Harlequins
Avoca v YMCA
Corinthian v Cookstown
Monkstown v Lisnagarvey
North Down v Glenanne