Penalty stroke agony in final for seconds

Cookstown 2

Corinthians 2

Corinthians win 1-3 on penalties

ONE hundred and two seconds, that’s how close Cookstown seconds came to landing the biggest prize in junior hockey, the Irish Junior Cup, last Sunday at the National Hockey Stadium in UCD.

102 seconds were left on the clock when Paul Thompson was up-ended in his own circle only for the umpire to play on for Corinthians to equalise and take the game into extra time.

The Reds could not have had a better start and nerves were settled as Cookstown raced into a two goal lead after 10 minutes. Andrew McWhirter put in a great tackle and released Stuart Smyth down the left hand side. Smyth beat a couple of defenders and entered the circle. As the keeper came to meet him, Smyth laid on a great pass to Steven Allen who had made up the hard yardage from no-where, and Allen tapped in to open the scoring.

Corinthians came into the game now and Alister Thom in goal was looking sharp as he saved a couple of efforts in quick succession. In their next attack Cookstown had their supporters in dreamland when they doubled their lead. Again McWhirter was involved when he stepped forward to intercept and immediately found Stuart Smyth. Smyth went round the last man and left the keeper on the deck to push into an empty net, a great goal.

Corinthians then went through a good spell and had a lot of ball possession. However, the midfield of Philly Morton, Richard Nelson, Paul Thompson and Gavin Butler all put in a hard shift and worked tirelessly to close their opponents down.

The defence of Mark Wilson, Ian Cheevers, Dan Crooks and Andy McWhirter were all brilliant as a unit and all put in great tackles to protect their lead. Graeme Black won a penalty corner for Cookstown as the Reds were now reduced to counter attacks.

The Reds introduced fresh young legs in the forms of Paul Watt, Andy Smyth and Tony Johnston and all three were involved in some good attacking moves. Cookstown had three penalty corners in succession but unfortunately all came to nothing. As Cookstown set up deeper and conceded ground, Alister Thom was a lot busier as he again denied the Dublin side.

However, with less than a minute to go until the half Thom was eventually beaten during a scramble in his circle to give Corinthians the impetus going into the second half.

Throughout the second half the Reds all worked like trojans, Allen, Black and Smyth and Ryan Millar all had great individual runs as Corinthians resorted to breaking down play but the umpires were slow to show any colour of card.

At this stage all of the midfield and defence were winning their own individual battles but then came a series of injuries which upset Cookstown’s plans. The influential Cheevers and Thompson both were hurt and had to go off for a while as Corinthians strived for the equaliser. Just when it looked like the Reds had weathered the storm, Corinthians equalised after fouling Thompson in his circle.

Yet again Corinthians had the momentum going into golden goal extra time as Cookstown once more had to lift themselves. McWhirter put in some great tackles as he snuffed out Corinthians attack time and time again and he was deservedly named Cookstown’s man of the match.

Into the second period of extra time and eventually the umpire showed a Corinthians player a yellow card for persistent fouling. Stuart Smyth had a great run beating four players but just could not get his shot off. The game ended 2-2 with all the Cookstown squad dead on their feet after a momentous effort. The game was settled with the lottery that is penalty strokes and unfortunately things didn’t go Cookstown way.

The team however can be proud of their efforts. They did not let themselves down and did the club and the town proud.

The team definitely has the basis of a squad that can challenge for this trophy for the next few years.

Team: A Thom; I Cheevers; M Wilson; D Crooks; A McWhirter; R Nelson; P Morton (C); G Butler; P Thompson; S Smyth; S Allen; G Black; R Millar; P Watt; A Smyth; T Johnston.

K Crooks (Manager) I Hagan (Coach) M Anderson (GK Coach)