Cookstown Hockey Club have a season defining run of three games in a week in the Ulster Premier League.
The Reds take on Instonians on Wednesday at 8pm at Steelweld Park in what is sure to be a closely fought contest. Cookstown sit just behind the Shawsbridge outfit in the table, eight points adrift but with two games in hand; to have any hope of ending the season in third spot they must deny Instonians any points.
They then must take the full haul against Belfast Harlequins and Mossley in their last two league outings. These two games come hot on the heels of the Instonians game with Cookstown visiting Harlequins on Saturday before they play host to Mossley on Monday night at 8pm.
However, these two encounters will be anything but ‘gimmes’ for the Tyrone men; both Harlequins and Mossley have aspirations to catch up with fifth placed Annadale and force their way into the Irish Hockey League qualification places for the first time.
Harlequins will be an especially tough encounter. Bouyed by the return of top goal scorer, Luke McClelland, and anchored by former Cookstown star, Ivan Steen, the Derramore Park team are aiming to break the six-year IHL qualification stanglehold of Lisnagarvey, Banbridge, Cookstown, Instonians and Annadale.
Coach Michael Haycock said, “There is no doubt - these are a big couple of matches for us. But paramount for us is trying to improve our performance levels each game before the start of the IHL.
“We have been working incredibly hard on our defence as we have been shipping too many goals through silly mistakes all over the field. I would say that three-quarters of the goals against us have been caused by our own mistakes.”
It their last two outings in the league the four-times champions have lost 5-3 to Inst and 4-1 at Banbridge.
“We are looking for the three wins. Key in these games will be for us to start at the right intensity. If we start on the back foot and allow these teams to get a foothold in the game they will make it difficult for us,” Haycock said.
ULSTER PREMIER LEAGUE
Lisnagarvey 15 40
Banbridge 15 40
Instonians 17 38
Cookstown 15 30
Annadale 16 17
Mossley 14 13
Harlequins 13 13
Kilkeel 14 13
NICS 15 7
Raphoe 14 4