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Rampant Cookstown set up for another big final fling

 

By Graham Hamilton

It's turning into a great season for Cookstown who have booked themselves into their third cup final in just 20 weeks. They might want to blot out the memory of that Boxing Day massacre when Annadale crushed them 8-1 in the Kirk Cup decider, but since then the Tyrone lads have won the Provincial Play-off final to regain their place in the all-Ireland set-up and on Saturday they clinched their place in the Anderson Cup final to add to their Ulster Premier League title success.

The Red Army have been scoring goals for fun all campaign and the semi-final win over Belfast Harlequins was no different, emerging 7-4 winners.

And once again the goals were shared around, although Greg Allen's name was again to the fore, with Ulster's top marksman striking twice more to take his total into the 40s and counting.

Stuart Smyth also grabbed a double, as did Luke McClelland for Harlequins, but now it's on to the May 16 final for Cookstown where they will meet the holders, Kilkeel, who beat Portadown 5-4.

The trophy was almost prised away from the Mourne side as they went two goals down at Edenvilla and also trailed 4-3 with five minutes to go.

But they stunned their opposition with two late goals, with David Finlay firing in the last-gasp winner from open play.

Portadown will be kicking themselves, after two goals from James Curran and one each from Steven Johnston and Stuart Kirkland put them in front going into the final minutes but they were unable to hold on.

The final will take place at Banbridge on Tuesday May 16 at 8.15pm, after the women's President's Cup decider.

Meanwhile, Ulster retained the junior inter-provincial crown at Stormont's Playball yesterday, going through their four-game series unbeaten at the weekend.

Coach Colin Holmes saw his side beat Munster twice (4-3 and 3-0) and beat Leinster once and draw once (2-0 and 3-3) to finish three points clear at the top.

They had to come from three down to get that draw with Leinster yesterday, with William Malcolmson (Banbridge) and Cookstown duo Steven Stewart and Mitchell Greer on the mark in a superb comeback. And goals from Mitchell Greer (2) and Johnny Aiken (Kilkeel) secured the win over Munster in the final game to start the celebrations.

Finally, Great Britain men have won the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup for the first time since 1994, after they beat world champions Australia 4-3 in a thrilling final on Saturday.

Cookstown's Ian Sloan wore the captain's armband in the decider and Antrim's Mark Gleghorne was also in the line-up.

"It's a great feeling to have won our first tournament with such a new team," said Ian.

"Our level of performance and team work were excellent and there was a real sense of positivity throughout the squad.

"With a big summer ahead, with the World League semi-finals and the Europeans, and players still to come back in to compete for places, it's an exciting time to be part of this squad."

Anderson Cup semi-finals: Cookstown 7 (Allen 2, Smyth 2, M Kerr, Crooks, Thompson) Belfast Harlequins 4 (McClelland 2, Quigley, McKenna); Portadown 4 (Curran 2, Johnston, Kirkland) Kilkeel 5 (Stevenson 2, Russell, Annett, D Finlay)

Junior inter-provincials (Stormont Playball): Saturday: Ulster 2 (Aiken, Malcolmson) Leinster 0; Munster 0 Leinster 5; Ulster 4 (Atkinson 2, Malcolmson 2) Munster 3.

Yesterday: Leinster 2 Munster 0; Ulster 3 (alcolmson, Stewart, Greer) Leinster 3; Munster 0 Ulster 3 (Greer, Aiken)

Azlan Shah Cup final: Australia 3 Gt. Britain 4.

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