Cookstown had the perfect start to their IHL campaign, sending out a message of intent to all Ireland as they ran riot at Garryduff against Cork Harlequins.
Not only did the Reds lay down a massive marker, but they also gained revenge over the team that had knocked them out of the Irish Senior Cup at Coolnafranky earlier in the season.
The Reds didn’t start too brightly and Ian Hughes had to be alert in the first minute as he came out to block along his bye-line. Harlequins definitely settled quicker and were enjoying the greater possession as Cookstown struggled to get a foothold on the game.
With Harlequins knocking the ball about as they pleased, the Reds made changes with some players coming off having not even touched the ball.
Towards the end of the quarter a crash ball into the circle from Godfrey Irwin just missed Andy Barbour’s sticka and the scoreline remained locked at the end of the first quarter.
Cookstown got their act together in the second period and laid the foundations for the eventual victory. Good early pressure from the Reds was rewarded when they won three penalty corners in quick succession with Simon Todd prominent. The third corner was mistrapped but the ball broke to Greg Allen whose shot was saved by the keeper. Jon Ames pounced on the rebound to put the Reds ahead.
Almost immediately Andy Barbour intercepted a bad pass, entered the circle, drew the keeper and squared for Allen who had the goal at his mercy. Unfortunately, the ball trickled onto Allen’s foot and the chance was lost.
Keith Black then sustained a bad knee injury and was unable to continue.
He was replaced by Paul Thompson who immediately made an impact on the game. Right on the half time hooter Cookstown won another penalty corner and Gareth Cuddy scored to open the gap between the sides.
A great time to score and it was obvious to the travelling support that the Cork players’ heads had dropped.
The next goal in this game would either mean game over or game on depending on who scored.
Cookstown were now totally dominant with everyone putting in a good shift.
The back four of David Best, Ewan Butler, Godfrey Irwin and Paul Thompson enjoyed a good share of possession as Cork still put little pressure on Cookstown’s defensive unit.
A great run from Stuart Smyth down the left saw his reverse cross just evading the diving Allen as Cookstown tried to put the game to bed.
Ryan Millar found the over-lapping Thompson down the right and the flying right back showed great 3D skills as he jinxed his way along the bye-line before pulling the ball back into the path of Stephen Sloan who finished with aplomb to put Cookstown 3-0 up.
A couple of minutes later and Cookstown further increased their lead when Miller scored with a scorcher of a reverse giving the keeper no chance.
It was all one way traffic at this stage, however in a rare breakaway by Cork the defecit was reduced. Hughes made an initial good save but a David Eakins follow up shot was deflected into the net by Philip McLaughlin.
At the end of quarter three the scoreline was 4-1 to Cookstown.
Into the final quarter and good to see young Andrew McWhirter come on at left back to gain valuable pitch time and experience at this level.
More good work from Smyth resulted in the award of a penalty corner and Allen’s effort was illegally kept out by a defender.
With Black - the regular penalty taker - off injured, Allen was quick to grab the ball and place it on the spot and score with his unique style.
With five minutes left the hard working Barbour made a great steal from a defender and drew the keeper, again squaring to Allen as he had in the first half.
This time the Cookstown striker controlled and calmly flicked past the defender on the line to score his second and his team’s sixth.
Cookstown: Ian Hughes; Keith Black; Ewan Butler; Godfrey Irwin; David Best; Paul Thompson; Andrew McWhirter; Simon Todd; Andrew Barbour; Stephen Sloan; Jon Ames; Stuart Smyth; Greg Allen (c); Ryan Miller; Gareth Cuddy.