Rugby: Cookstown’s kicker to show killer instinct against Ballynahinch

Paul O'Neill kicks Cookstown into the lead with a long distance penalty. Picture by Daron Patterson
Paul O'Neill kicks Cookstown into the lead with a long distance penalty. Picture by Daron Patterson

The last gasp victory kings, Cookstown RFC, will need to show every last drop of tenacity if they are to be triumphant in their McCambley Cup semi-final against Ballynahinch at Mid-Ulster Sports Arena on Saturday at 2.30pm.

One feature of Cookstown’s superb season this year has been their ability to win games in the last minute. Not only have they shown a never-say-die attitude, but they have also proved to have a killer instinct, none more so than scrum-half Paul O’Neill who has landed a series of last gasp kicks to claim victory from the mouth of defeat.

“He was a full back, wing and outhalf, but has moved into the nine shirt and has made the jersey his own. He has gained a lot of experience and has a huge knowledge of the game - he watches a lot of rugby and is able to transfer that onto the pitch,” said Cookstown Captain Liam Currie.

“His kicking is second to none. He has a really cultured boot and three times this season he has won us the game with last minute penalties in three games this season.

“As captain, I have absolutely no problem, any time we have a penalty in the opposition half, I just ask him the question and if he’s confident I just give it to him without hesitation. If not, well Ciaran (Currie) will get us good position into touch. We have a quality line-out and quality backs so they can get us into postition to generate a score.”

However, Cookstown do not exhibit as a one man team; three sets of brothers - the McKennas, Nugents and Curries - attest to this fact.

“Basically we are made up of lads who want to give the sport a go, supplemented by experienced men like Owen Mallon and Gavin Stinson.

“In the forwards we have really worked on our fundamentals. In previous seasons we would’ve had forwards who would’ve been keen to jump in the line-out or hit in the scrum and then disappear out amongst the backs to get tries, but this year we have re-established the role of the forward (in our team),” Liam continued.

“The build-up has been good and the appetite is high. The players have showed me the heart that they have and their ability to dig deep; their self-belief and belief in the game plan that, once we adhered to it, that we are pretty devastating.

“Incidentally, we’ve had to work around four weddings and four stag-dos within the team,” joked Liam. “So it is by some miracle that we’ve been able to fulfil all our fixtures!”

Hopefully, come Saturday evening, Cookstown RFC will be looking forward to a celebration of a different kind.