Plenty of positives from EHL experience

DESPITE the heavy nature of the two defeats in Antwerp, Cookstown coach Stephen Cuddy felt there were plenty of positives to take from the games.

“We had a fantastic weekend. Once we knew we were going to be third seeds in the group we wanted to experience playing the best teams we could and that was certainly the case,” said Stephen.

“We couldn’t have had a tougher draw and even after the game against Amsterdam the players said they had really enjoyed it even though they were beaten 10-1.

“At the end of the day we are never going to win a competition like this. I told the guys it was a reward for what we had achieved last season and to really go out and enjoy it.

“I think we gave a good account of ourselves in both games and even against Amsterdam we played some nice stuff.

“We got back into it in the third quarter at 4-1 and although we lost a few goals after that we took the opportunity of giving all our players some pitch time so in that respect the margin of the final result didn’t really matter.”

Stephen said the trip had only served to heighten the desire to return to the European arena.

“Both the Irish representatives, ourselves and Banbridge, are in a similar position. We are working on a shoestring budget, we do not pay players and we are based in quite small towns in terms of the pool of players we have available to us.

“But all our players have gained from this experience, both the older guys who have been with us for 16 or 17 years and have given a lot to the club, and the younger lads as well.”

Stephen paid tribute to the efforts of all his squad but in particular Timmy Smyth who was outstanding in both games and certainly not overawed by the quality of the opposition. He also felt Greg Allen, Keith Black and keeper Ian Hughes performed impressively.

Cookstown manager Michael Haycock echoed the thoughts of the coach.

“We knew what to expect beforehand but we will have gained from playing this quality of opposition. Hopefully we will be able to get back into the competition to judge whether we have learned from the trip and whether we have closed the gap on the best teams,” he said.