Cookstown clinch league title after 25-year wait

COOKSTOWN coaching duo, Michael Haycock and Geoff Hamilton may have already guided Cookstown to a League and Cup double this season but they are not finished yet.

After landing the Podium Premier League title for the first time in 25 years and winning the Kirk Cup earlier in the season, they are now focused on All Ireland glory and the coveted All Ireland Champions title.

"We set our sights on winning the league but to take it to the All Ireland's will be the real test for us," said Haycock.

"Last season opened our eyes to the standard of hockey required to play at this level.

"Playing against the like of Pembroke Wanders, Glenanne and Cork Church of Ireland will be a challenge, but we now have the squad who can do it and we can go all the way.

"The guys were deservedly celebrating at the weekend but it will be back to training this week as we play Garvey next Saturday and we want to remain undefeated.

"After that, we will be concentrating for the All Ireland Play-offs, so we just have to keep the momentum going."

When asked if he had any thoughts of qualifying for the European Club Championships Haycock added: "When Geoff and I took over the coaching we did not have a big squad but the squad we have now has the potential of being the best.

"Some of the guys who play for us also play at the High School and recently sampled European hockey at that level, so they know what is expected of them.

"To play in the European's would be a great experience for everyone."

But, Banbridge nearly spoilt the party. With Cookstown only requiring a point from the game, Colin Dowds put the Bannsiders into a 20 minute lead and for a while Cookstown wobbled.

But it was a different story in the second half as Cookstown found their current form and when Geoffrey Irwin slotted the ball home from a beatufully executed short corner in the 48th minute to level the score, it was the point they needed to lift the title and the celebrations began.

n ANNADALE clinched the fourth position to qualify for the All Ireland League Play-offs with a 4-2 win over Mossley, which now means that it's down to the last game of the season to decide who will drop from the Premier League.

Kilkeel still look favourites for the chop as they came out on the wrong side of a 3-1 scoreline against Bangor.

And in Senior One, Raphoe are poised to be promoted as they swept aside North Down 4-1, and with Antrim crashing to Harlequins, Civil Service are the only side left to challenge Raphoe and that is a tough ask.

n RESULTS: Podium Premier League: Annadale 4 Mossley 2, Banbridge 1 Cookstown 1, Bangor 3 Kilkeel 1, Lisnagarvey 2 Instonians 2;

Podium Senior One: Belfast Harlequins 5 Antrim 1, Cliftonville 2 Ballynahinch 3, Newry 3 South Antrim 2, Queen's 2 Civil Service 4, Raphoe 4 North Down 1.