Former All Ireland champions Cookstown are back in an Ulster Intermediate final after edging past a dogged Doohamlet side in a hard fought encounter at Brewster Park in Enniskillen yesterday afternoon.
It was a contest that certainly wasn’t for the faint hearted with no quarter asked for or given on a day when the Monaghan champions finished with fourteen men after full back Martin Hughes was straight red carded in the 49th minute for striking Owen Mulligan.
Cookstown also lined out with Barry Hughes in their starting fifteen and he demonstrated his commitment to the Father Rocks cause by playing twenty four hours after he had got married.
The Tyrone champions got off to a great start with an early goal but they trailed by the minimum margin at the break 1-2 to 0-6. The crucial spell in the game arrived in the third quarter when Cookstown landed four answered points as they came from behind to win although the Monaghan men missed a couple of late chances that would have forced extra time. Cookstown now play Down champions Warrenpoint in the final on December 2nd.
Cookstown had an opportunity to open the scoring in the first attack of the game but teenager James McGahan was off target from a free after midfielder Conor O’Hare had been fouled. John Gilmore opened the scoring in the 4th minute from a well struck “45” before the same player grabbed the only goal of the game three minutes later. A long ball forward from Conor Mullan saw Gilmore get a touch to it but Doohamlet keeper James Casey appeared to have it under control until he dropped it and the Father Rocks man pulled on the loose ball to send to the net for his third championship goal in as many games.
It took the Monaghan champions a dozen minutes to open their account via a Paul McArdle thirteen metre free after Shane McManus had been fouled but that got them up and running. McManus took a pass from Ted Duffy to point from play before wing half back Darren Connolly joined the attack to hit a massive score from forty five metres out on the right wing to reduce the deficit to the minimum. In the 22nd minute the sides were level when Brian Kelly’s attempted clearance went straight to McArdle who accepted the gift. It was a dour battle with both defences very much on top and after Owen Mulligan had converted a free following a foul on himself Doohamlet wasted no time in responding with centre half back Colin Walshe exchanging passes with Ollie Hughes before fisting over the bar.
A minute before the break Cookstown keeper Martin Rea came to his side’s rescue with a brilliant save to deny Shane McManus after a flowing Doohamlet move that involved Ciaran McManus and team captain Duffy. From the resulting “45” McArdle’s effort dropped short but it was won by full forward Shane McManus who fisted a point to give his side a slender interval advantage 0-6 to 1-2.
Doohamlet were out on the field for the second half a full five minutes before their Tyrone counterparts as the Cookstown management no doubt weren’t happy with the first half display. In the second minute Mark Murphy won a free out near the left side line and Duffy sent over a great conversion to leave two between the sides. The Monaghan champions then went twenty minutes without scoring during which time Cookstown effectively won the game. Mulligan knocked over a long range free after a foul on Martin Hughes and in the sixth minute the sides were level again when centre half back Martin Murray struck a great point from out on the left wing.
Cookstown now had their tails up and in the ninth minute they took a lead that they were never to lose when a quick free from Mulligan found Mullan who split the posts. Jason Quinn then entered the action in place of McGahan and he gave the Cookstown attack a fresh impetus. In the 16th minute Gilmore landed a huge point from out on the right wing after taking a pass from midfielder O’Hare and moments later the Monaghan champions were down to fourteen men.
With eight minutes to go Doohamlet ended their barren spell when McArdle knocked over a thirty metre free after midfielder Greg Duffy had been fouled for what proved to be the last score of the contest. Mulligan was unlucky to see a shot come back off the post while McArdle had a chance to equalise but his difficult free from out near the sideline also struck the woodwork. With a minute of normal time left to play Cookstown full back Stephen Monaghan came to his side’s rescue with a textbook tackle to deny Shane McManus just when he looked set to point. Three additional minutes were signalled at the end of the game but a dogged Cookstown side held out to reach another Provincial final.