Town fired up to avenge cup humiliation, warns Millar
Cookstown are out to prove that their 8-1 humiliation in Boxing Day's Kirk Cup final against Annadale was a fluke when the two teams meet head-on again on Saturday as the Ulster Premier League resumes after its Christmas and New Year break.
The Red Army were marginal favourites to land the trophy at Stormont but returned home on the end of one of the heaviest defeats inflicted on them during their 65-year history.
It's something they want to put right for a number of reasons - they owe it to themselves after such an embarrassing result; they owe it to their fans who travelled the 100-mile round trip and were given little to cheer about; and they badly need to turn things around promptly to maintain their push for the league title which offers a route back into the all-Ireland set-up.
Town midfielder Ryan Millar said: "You don't often get the chance to right some wrongs so quickly after a bad defeat like we sustained, so we are really looking forward to this game.
"The final was as bad a result as any of us have ever suffered but credit to Annadale as they were just class in the final third and scored some brilliant goals.
"Obviously they will be riding on the crest of a wave and will come to us full of confidence.
"But we know we'll have to start far better than we did on Boxing Day.
"I'll take any positive result, but if we play the way I know we can and put in a complete performance, we should be able to gain some form of revenge."
Both teams are undefeated in the league and their only dropped points came in their meeting in the season opener when they shared six goals.
The outcome of this game will have a big bearing on where the title will rest come March, and so there's clearly lots at stake.
Annadale have received a boost with news that player/coach Peter Caruth, who is so influential in what is a young squad, is fit and available after he was given the all-clear on the ankle injury sustained at the tail-end of the Kirk Cup final.
But Callum Robson, also injured in the final, is doubtful.
Cookstown should be at full strength and are looking to Greg Allen and Stuart Smyth in particular to test Dale goalkeeper Jonny Moore, who was outstanding on Boxing Day.
Meanwhile, Saturday is a crucial day for all three of the Ulster teams in the EY Irish Hockey League.
Instonians are hoping to start the New Year in a positive way by chalking up their first win of the campaign when Pembroke Wanderers make the trip north.
And Banbridge and Lisnagarvey are desperate to return from Dublin with wins over Three Rock Rovers and UCD respectively to maintain their challenge at the top end of the table.
Leaders Bann have the more difficult game as Three Rock are currently on the fringe of the play-off places, but they have already beaten them twice this season - once in the league (4-2) and also in the Irish Senior Cup (3-1), although both were at their Havelock Park base.
MEN’S SENIOR FIXTURES
FRIDAY: Ulster Premier League: Belfast Harlequins v Newry (Deramore, 8pm).
Senior One: Portrush v Ballynahinch (Ballycastle, 8pm).
SATURDAY: Irish Hockey League: UCD v Lisnagarvey (UCD, 2.50pm); Three Rock Rovers v Banbridge (Grange Road, 11.30am); Glenanne v Railway Union (2.30pm); Cork C of I v Monkstown (2.30pm); Instonians v Pembroke Wanderers (Shaw’s Bridge, 3pm).
Ulster Premier League: Portadown v Raphoe (Edenvilla, 1pm); Cookstown v Annadale (Steelweld Park, 2.30pm); Mossley v North Down (The Glade, 2.30pm).
Senior One: Bangor v Armagh (Aurora, 2.30pm).
Irish Hockey Trophy first round: Queen’s v Bandon; Antrim v South Antrim (Antrim Forum, 1pm).