The Club has certainly come a long way since its inception, given that it is something of a hockey “island”, – isolated as it is in the “wilds” of County Tyrone. The story of its rise from humble beginnings to becoming one of Ireland`s premier clubs is an interesting tale.
Early evidence of hockey in the Tyrone area is scant, although a Cookstown XI did challenge a team from Aughnacloy in 1898, albeit in a mixed match. An interesting statistic about this match is that Aughnacloy`s Eva Stokes had the doubtful honour of being the first, though by no means the last, visiting `keeper to have pick the ball out of the back of the net, it having been driven home by Cookstown`s captain, the Reverend A.J.Hunter.
Following a get-together of players for a knock about at Monrush, early in 1951, a discussion was held at the edge of the pitch which effectively culminated in the foundation of Cookstown Hockey Club as we know it today. This historic first team was captained by Paddy Marks with Dickie Harkness, a past Club President, his second in command.
The story from then on was one of relentless progression. In 1968, Gordon Donaghy led his side into Senior League II and in 1975 Cookstown, under the captaincy of Eddie Ferguson, were promoted to Senior League I where they have remained ever since.
Since then, the roll of honour has been impressive. The Irish Senior Cup has been won twice and the Irish Junior Cup twice. The Ulster Senior / Premier League has been captured four times, with the present First XI winning it for a record breaking three times in a row. The Anderson Cup has been won twice and the Kirk Cup five times. Indeed the last seasons has seen the completion of an historic “double double” with the Kirk Cup and League title secured in the 2008/09 & 2009/10 seasons. The Club has represented Ireland twice, winning the European “B” in 1981 and competing in the “A” division in the Netherlands in 1988. They will represent Ireland for a third time when they take on Amsterdam and Reading in the European Hockey League. We have also had a stream of provincial and Ireland representative honours at all levels. All-in-all, apparently, a hard act to follow.
Yet looking out on the new pitch I have every confidence that the future is bright. The talent of some of our present players is amazing and, having this new surface to hone their skills upon, they, and those not yet old enough to don the Red Shirt, can only get better. It`s a far cry from what the “founding fathers” back in 1951 would have experienced playing , as they did, on grass pitches which were little more than fields.
Before the move for, home games, to Coolnafranky and the shale and sand pitches, the Club led something of a nomadic existence. For a while, in 1951, they played at Monrush, just beside the remains of a World War II Prisoner of War Camp – rusted barbed wire and all. Playing at Clare, over hit clearances ended up in the sewer, where only the brave or foolhardy would retrieve the ball. Similar problems existed at Drapersfield where the Ballinderry River would carry a wayward pass sedately on to Lough Neagh. Playing at the Stewartstown Road ground road also had its hazards. A special insurance policy had to be taken out to protect the club when misdirected shots at goal landed on the main road. Moving to the Fairhill was little better. Come the winter rains, the conditions were such that many a hard pressed defender, beset on all sides by opponents, took the only way out and drove the ball straight down into the ground!
So we have come a long way and not just geographically. It has been a long, and not always easy, road which has led has led us to where we are tonight. The game has changed, the playing surfaces have changed, as have the personnel. What has remained constant, however, is the enterprising spirit of those who have brought us successes on the field, magnificent playing facilities, a club house which is the envy of all who visit and a Club of which we should all be proud.
The following Cookstown players have represented Ireland at full International level:
Martin Sloan – played for Ireland 149 times and was Captain in more than 100 games
Andrew Barbour – won 84 Caps and scored twelve goals for Ireland, retiring after the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in New Zealand in February 2008
Mark Burns – Irish Hockey Hall of Fame 2010-11
Irish Senior Cup (2 wins) 1986-87 & 2010-2011
Irish Junior Cup (2 wins)?1982-83, 1984-85.
Ulster Senior League (4 wins) 1982-83, 2007-08, 2008-09 & 2009-2010
Kirk Cup (6 wins) 1988-89, 2002-03, 2006-07, 2008-09?& 2009-2010, 2012-13
Anderson Cup (3 wins) 1982-83, 1992-93, 2012-13
European B Division (1 win) 1981
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