Greg Allen
Back in The EYHL

Cookstown HC 4 University College Dublin HC 3

Cookstown are back into the EY Hockey League after they bravely came back from two goals down to beat UCD at Grange Road in Rathfarnham on Sunday.

This was the second year in a row that the Reds have met the Dublin side in the promotion-relegation playoff with the students winning last season’s encounter.

A victory for UCD over the Tyrone men in the Irish Senior Cup early this season made them the favourites to retain the last slot in the EYHL, but Cookstown overcame that tag to emerge with victory and a place at the top table of hockey in Ireland.

It was a dreadful start for Cookstown.

A sweeping move down the left hand side saw UCD striker Fogarty turn sharply and smash the ball into bottom corner early on.

They were caught again soon afterwards when a clearance down the middle was intercepted, causing real consternation, and leading to UCD captain, Jeremy Duncan, lancing the ball past Tobi Deppermann.

Now fighting for their lives, Cookstown kicked it up a gear, moving the ball with real aplomb. Greg Allen had a few chances but each went without conversion.

It was Paul Thompson who put the Reds back in the game. Mark Crooks made the hard yards down the base line, squaring for Stuart Smyth, whose deflection drew a save out of the UCD ‘keeper. He could only parry to Thompson who finished at the second attempt.

The momentum was now definitively with Cookstown and this resulted in the award of a short corner. Allen’s flick was stopped from crossing the line by a foot and Keith Black stepped up to make it 2-2 from the penalty spot.

Two minutes later Cookstown counter-attacked with Black finding himself at the top of the circle. He smashed a reverse goalwards with Ryan Millar getting the all-important if slight touch to take it through the goalkeeper’s legs.

UCD had a good spell in the middle of the second half, winning a penalty corner. From a well-disguised variation, Duncan grabbed his second of the game with a deflection and make it 3-3.

With only four minutes to go – and the game very much in the balance – Cookstown struck the decisive blow. Millar received a pass from Crooks in space in the middle of the pitch and played a lovely pass to Allen out wide in the circle. The striker swiveled into space and flicked it inside the near post for 4-3.

UCD subbed on an eleventh outfield player for their goalkeeper for the remainder of the game, leading to a lung-busting effort from the Reds to the final whistle. But Cookstown were able to hold out and win their way back into the EY Hockey League for next season.

“It was a slow, nervy start by us,” said a jubilant captain, Greg Allen, after the win.

“I think we let the last two games – two defeats – against UCD get to us a bit, but Thomo’s goal really settled us down and gave us the belief to go on and win.

“We played some superb hockey and it is just wonderful for the players, coaches, sponsors Solo Fuels and Steelweld, and our supporters to be back in the EY Hockey League for next season.

“We’ll take a bit of time to enjoy this and then start thinking about next season and what will undoubtedly be an almighty challenge for us. We want that challenge though and are delighted to be able to take it on.”

Men's EYHL 2018/19
TEAM P W D L GD Pts        
Banbridge 6 5 0 1 5 15        
Glenanne 6 3 3 0 6 12        
Pembroke W 6 4 0 2 -1 12        
Three Rock 5 3 0 2 4 9        
Lisnagarvey 5 3 0 2 2 9        
Monkstown 5 2 0 3 6 6        
Annadale 5 2 0 3 -4 6        
Cookstown 7 1 2 4 -5 5        
Cork C o I 5 0 3 2 -3 3        
YMCA 6 0 2 4 -10 2        
Ladies' Senior 2 2018/19
Annadale 6 5 1 0 14 16
Saintfield 5 3 1 1 3 10
Dromore 4 3 0 1 12 9
Ballyclare 6 3 0 3 9 9
Owls 5 3 0 2 4 9
NICS 4 2 1 1 3 7
Holywood 6 1 3 2 -3 6
Larne 5 1 2 2 -4 5
Limavady 5 1 1 3 -5 4
Cookstown 5 1 0 4 -12 3
Kilkeel 5 0 1 4 -21 1