Ulster champions Cookstown are to start work on a new £900,00 state-of-the-art hockey centre.
An international standard water-based synthetic pitch will be laid alongside the current sand-filled pitch at Cookstown High School, the first such facility west of the Bann.
This brings the number of water-based pitches in the Ulster Premier League to six, with Banbridge, Lisnagarvey, Annadale, Instonians and Mossley already playing on such surfaces.
The project has been four years on the drawing board and comes at just the right time as the club and the school bid to maintain their position at the head of Ulster hockey.
It has received substantial support from the Sport Northern Ireland Building Sport Programme (£660,000) and from Cookstown District Council (£90,000) and is expected to be completed by October, just after the new season begins.
Project manager Stephen Cuddy explains the decision behind the development: “We have simply outgrown our current facilities and we made the decision four years ago that if we were going to develop a second pitch it would have to be water-based.
“At the moment our men’s first XI travel to Belfast every week to gain exposure on such surfaces, but now we’ll have a top-class pitch of our own, capable of staging senior internationals and cup semi-finals and finals within Ulster.
“We are very grateful for the level of support from Sport Northern Ireland and Cookstown District Council, without whose help the development would not have been feasible.”
Michael Haycock has been an inspirational coach in steering both the club and school to Ulster titles and sees this as a vital step in taking them on to all-Ireland successes.
“We were the first school in Northern Ireland to have a synthetic pitch in 1994, and now we will be the first to have water-based and sand-filled pitches located on school grounds.
“This means all our teams will be able to practice and train on top class surfaces and five us the chance to further develop players of international standard”.
The Cookstown club won the Premier League and Kirk Cup this season while the school won the Burney Cup, McCullough Cup and John Waring Memorial Trophy.