Ards IV 44
On Saturday 26 April Cookstown contested the McCambley cup final at a sun-kissed Ravenhill stadium.
However it was not to be as the vastly experienced Ards Black Knights outfit secured a fifth McCambley Cup in 10 years in front of a large turnout of supporters from both towns.
From there Cookstown applied pressure and drew a penalty from the Ards defence which was well converted by scrum half Paul O’Neill.
Ards’ response was swift and decisive with a series of attacks up the blind side taking play deep into Cookstown territory before the ball was transferred to their winger who touched down in the corner.
Cookstown then reacted to that setback by increasing the intensity at the breakdown again and drew a series of penalties from the referee.
Paul O’Neill remained steady to convert two of these, the second a long range effort from just inside the half way line which received applause from the opposition supporters.
Again Ards regrouped and responded through a try with their fullback in the corner. The conversion was missed.
Cookstown proved their resilience on their path to the final, and showed this character again by regaining the lead with a fourth penalty as Paul O’Neill maintained his 100% kicking record.
Ards hit their stride with a pulsating 20 minute period of rugby either side of half time which saw them amass an unassailable 39-12 point lead.
Cookstown’s only response was a well taken try following a bright counterattack involving backs and forwards moving the ball at pace which saw the speedy Michael McKeown release Kevin Nugent to score under the posts.
Ards has done their homework on Cookstown, the usually devastating backline unit of Currie, McKennas and Nugents had no space to work in.
Former Ulster player Shane Stewart was a constant thorn in the Cookstown side with his ability to read and disrupt plays.
The last score of the day came as a result of fine pressure from the Ards midfield which saw a replacement winger touch down for a converted try,
The final whistle soon went to the joy of Ards players. This was a fine Ards team boasting three Heineken Cup winners and a host of AIL experience.
In the last ten years Ards have been to seven finals and won the cup on five occasions, a remarkable achievement.
Cookstown RFC captain Liam Currie commented: “Although the result did not go our way we can look back at this season very positively. Our target was to get to Ravenhill, the boys bought into it and we achieved it.
“The player’s preparation and commitment has been fantastic, three of the forward pack have just played their first full season of rugby, five of the seven backs have 20 years of rugby between them.
“With that in mind, this Cookstown team achieved something really special and have delivered the most successful season since the club was formed 25 years ago. It would have been nice to lift the cup to mark the anniversary of the club but it was just not to be. We will learn from this and we will go at it again next year. I would like to congratulate Ards and thank them for their words of encourage to the boys in the changing room after the game”.
Cookstown Squad: Liam Currie, Richard Brown, Stephen Rea, Owen Mallon, Henry Stewart, Martin Devlin, Ryan McLoughlin, Martin Boone, JP Reah, Gav Stinson, Chris Moore, Ali Jaafar, Dave Weir, Paul O’Neill, Ciaran Currie, Kevin Nugent, Denver Nugent, Stephen McKenna, Ciaran McKenna, Michael McKeown, Conor Harte.