Cookstown 2-8 Stewartstown 2-7-
Cookstown’s poor start to the season looked set to continue at O’Neill Park in Dungannon on Saturday evening but they dug deep to hit the last half a dozen points of the game to edge past Stewartstown in this Intermediate championship opener.
The Harps had been the better side throughout the first half on their way to a four point interval advantage and when Gareth Devlin converted a free in the opening minutes of the second half they looked set to pick up where they had left off.
Remarkably though they failed to score again as an Owen Mulligan inspired Father Rocks side demonstrated that they will once again be a side to be reckoned with in the chase for the Paddy Cullen Cup.
On the night the winners had good displays from Ruairi Mullan, Ryan Pickering, Martin Murray and Mulligan while a disappointed Stewartstown side were best served by the likes of Conor Quinn and Devlin although the latter blotted his copybook when being straight red carded near the end of the contest.
Brian Mulligan and Devlin exchanged early points before Cookstown struck for a sixth minute goal when Martin Murray’s speculative effort from out on the left wing deceived Stewartstown keeper Johnny Campbell and ended up in the back of the net.
Stewartstown’s response was immediate as in the next attack a long delivery in from Peter Armour saw Devlin get on the end of it to palm to the net.
Ryan Devlin then tagged on a point for the lead before two superb Gareth Devlin efforts stretched their advantage.
In the 14th minute though Cookstown got back on level terms when Mulligan picked out corner forward Danny McElhatton who fired low to the net.
From the next kick out Stewartstown were dealt a blow when they lost midfielder Macaulay Quinn to a black card but sixty seconds later they got another major which was a carbon copy of their first with Devlin again the scorer after a long ball in from Armour.
Stewartstown’s more direct style of play was reaping them dividends in tricky underfoot conditions with that man Devlin proving difficult to marshal, he turned sharply to split the posts once again.
Cathal Devlin then got his name on the scoresheet before an Owen Mulligan free got Cookstown a badly needed response at the other end of the field to leave it 2-6 to 2-2 at halftime.
Three minutes into the second half Devlin took his personal haul to 2-5 from a twenty metre free but after that it was all downhill for Stewartstown. Mulligan fired over a brilliant point from out on the left wing before a free from substitute Christopher Eastwood left just a score between the two sides going into the final quarter.
Stewartstown were visibly beginning to tire and Cookstown sensed it as they continue to exert pressure on the Harps defence. Both sides missed chances before Mulligan swung over a tricky free after Murray had been fouled. The winners retained possession well to create openings and after a patient build up Mulligan swung over a beauty from out on the right wing and suddenly only the minimum separated the two sides.
All the momentum was with Cookstown and with a minute left on the clock a move involving Martin Hughes, Conor O’Hare and Matty Hughes was once again finished in style by former Tyrone star Mulligan.
With the sides now level and the game in injury time Stewartstown were desperately trying to hold on for a replay but Cookstown went for the jugular with Mulligan this time turning provider for substitute Martin Hughes to land an outstanding winning point.
The Harps were now looking for an equaliser in a game that they looked to be in control of but a disappointing afternoon for them ended when top scorer Devlin was dismissed by referee Brian McCallion.