IT was a real ding-dong battle in Banbridge on Sunday as Cookstown sneaked into the final of the Kirk Cup.
Despite being comfortably ahead for large periods of the fixture, the Reds had to rely on a Smyth goal to seal the tie with only minutes remaining.
Annadale set their stall out early in the first half and they were more than happy to let the Reds have the ball and defend in their own half. This meant that the Reds had to be patient in their build up and retain possession whilst looking for that precision pass to unlock the Dale defence.
It was from a dead ball situation that the deadlock was broken. An Andy Balfour free into the circle was delfected into the net by Cuddy, who scored yet another vital goal in another important fixture. The Reds then should have doubled their lead by Allen was denied by Moore in the Annadale goal.
At this stage, Annadale had offered little attacking threat and Ian Hughes had yet to touch the ball.
Cookstown doubled their lead in the 22nd minute when Ian Sloan scored from a penalty corner. At half time the Reds were two nil up and were already dreaming of Kirk Cup glory on Boxing Day.
However, it all changed in the second half as Annadale started superbly. Mills went on a mazy run and scored to bring Annadale right back into the game.
The Reds reacted superbly and immediately had Dale on the back foot. Sloan scored once again from a penalty corner to make it 3-1.
Nonetheless, Annadale had other ideas and with nothing to lose they began to throw more men forward. This risky strategy was rewarded when Caruth made space for himself in the circle and he fired home. 3-2.
Only moments later a shell shocked Cookstown side found themselves level with Annadale. Mills was upended in the box and Hamilton tucked away the stroke penalty.
The prospect of extra time was now a reality for the tiring Cookstown legs following an eventful weekend. Annadale at this stage seemed favourites to progress.
However, with only five minutes left, Cookstown grabbed the winner. Stephen Sloan slalomed his way down the left and drew in a defender before sliding the ball to Smyth to slammed in the winning goal.
Cookstown were through to their fourth consecutive Kirk Cup final and the Reds will now face Lisnagarvey at the Comber Road venue in Hillsborough on Boxing Day.
Team; Hughes, Black, Butler, Best, Rollins, Barbour, I Sloan, S Sloan, Hutchinson, Thompson, Allen, Cuddy, Smyth, Crooks, Nelson, Ames