COOKSTOWN’S memorable first European Hockey League adventure ended on a sour note for the club when it was discovered that inspirational skipper Godfrey Irwin had sustained a serious injury while in Belgium.
A scan on Monday revealed that Godfrey had fractured his skull and perforated an ear drum when struck by a short corner taken in Saturday’s game by Amsterdam’s Taeke Taekema - reckoned to be one of the fiercest strikers of a set-piece in the world.
Coach Stephen Cuddy was with his captain at Craigavon Area Hospital on Monday, where Godfrey was kept in overnight, and said the extent of the injury was a devastating blow for the club. Irwin was soon transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital on Tuesday morning for more tests.
“Taekema’s short corners are thought to be the fastest in the world and Godfrey saw the ball very, very late. His natural reaction was to turn away and he was struck on the side of the head just above the ear,” he said.
“He was never unconscious and was grand talking to us after the incident. We got him to the hotel and he was not too bad.”
But athough Godfrey - whose wife, two children and parents accompanied him to Antwerp - went to watch the Banbridge match on Sunday his condition appeared to worsen.
“His balance was off and he was not hearing out of his ear. He was just not himself and we just wanted to get him home,” revealed Stephen.
“We came home on Sunday night and on Monday a doctor associated with the club saw him and sent him to Craigavon where a scan revealed the full extent of the injury.
“In fact if you looked at the X-ray you could see the shape of a hockey ball where he was struck and they decided to keep him in to monitor him.
Stephen said the injury had been a severe blow to the players and was a real downer after such a positive experience of competing in the Euro Hockey League.
“Godfrey is a really good guy and has been a great captain for us who led us to the Irish Senior Cup last season,” he added.
“He has had a couple of stints as captain. When I was playing he was the best captain I ever played under and the current players really respect him and have taken what has happened badly.”
It goes without saying that everyone at Cookstown and the entire sporting and hockey fraternity wish Godfrey a speedy recovery.
On the pitch Cookstown were beaten but not disgraced against Reading on Friday (5-0) and Amsterdam on Saturday (10-1).
For more reaction and reports from the EHL see inside.