Much was made of the fact that Kilkeel were missing fiveplayers for this Ulster Premier League match-up especially since the Ulster branch had not sanctioned a postponement of this game.
However, Cookstown were also missing Ian Hughes, David Best, Ryan Miller, Stu Smyth, Stephen Sloan and Andy Smyth. So two much weakened teams made the long trek to Down’s furthest point last Friday night for an 8pm start.
With everyone keeping an eye on the temperature it turned out that Kilkeel was actually the warmest place and the pitch was in good condition.
Cookstown started well and soon had the home side under pressure. Despite this they were finding the Kilkeel keeper in inspired form. He made great saves from Andrew Barbour and Greg Allen in quick succession and was the stand-out player in this game.
Kilkeel were content to try and hit Cookstown on the counter attack and had a couple of good chances which went wide of Josh Anderson’s goal.
From their first penalty corner Cookstown opened the scoring when a Barbour shot just made it over the line after the keeper got a strong touch on it.
The Reds played some great hockey throughout the second half as they upped the tempo. Simon Todd turned on the edge of the circle and cracked a great shot into the corner of the net. Kilkeel attacked strongly and reduced the lead with a good shot which beat Anderson. Todd then scored his second when he skilfully lifted the ball over the prone keeper with a reverse scoop.
With the score now standing at 1-3, Kilkeel appealed to the umpires that the pitch was frozen, slippy and dangerous. After a brief consultation with both captains the umpires deemed that the pitch was still playable.
Cookstown went further ahead immediately when Barbour netted again. Mark Crooks then got in on the act when he smashed a penalty corner rebound home. Crooks also saw the keeper make a great save from a thunderbolt shot.
Captain Jon Ames then increased the Reds’ lead as they stormed into a 6-1 lead. Fair play to the home side who still put Cookstown under pressure and they scored two quick goals to give the home support something to shout about.
Before the game ended Cookstown were awarded a penalty stroke when a goalbound Allen effort hit a defender on the line and Keith Black converted the stroke to leave the final score 3-7.