Cookstown High captain David Ames will be taking his place in the line-up for the Ulster Bank Burney Cup final showdown against Banbridge Academy at Lisnagarvey tomorrow afternoon (2.30pm).
David was hit by a virus over the weekend and indeed missed out on the town’s senior team’s success in retaining the Ulster Premier League title at Bangor on Saturday with a 5-3 win.
But Ames - already a senior Irish international - has recovered and returned to school earlier this week, keen to lead the Tyrone lads as they bid to hold on to the trophy they won last season.
Ames - who won the Local Heroes award at the Belfast Telegraph’s glittering sports awards in January - led the school to a McCullough Cup success back in December and he’s determined to keep the Burney Cup in their possession, as well as going for the John Waring Memorial Trophy, a new all-Ireland series which will be staged in Dublin from March 19-20.
“David missed out on Cookstown’s league title success at the weekend due to that virus, but he’s back in training and fit to take his place,” assured High School coach Michael Haycock.
“We’re glad to have him on board, for he makes the team tick, but overall we have a good squad.”
There’s no doubt about that, with David Best, Greg Allen, Mak Crooks and the Sloan brothers Ian and Stephen all expected to go on to greater things.
And then there’s Stuart Smyth - he showed just how much he has progressed when he scored a wonder goal for the town’s team at Bangor on Saturday - he won possession in his own half and went off on a mazy dribble, turning half a dozen defenders inside out before shooting past the keeper.
But Haycock knows from experience that you can’t write off any Banbridge team, either at school or club level.
The Academy, after all, won the Burney three times in a row earlier this decade and have notable players in Scott Forbes, Stephen Dowds, Richard Magowan and Owen Magee.
Forbes and Dowds have already experienced senior club hockey while Magee is expected to follow in the footsteps of older brother Eugene who currently stars with the Irish international team.
“Cookstown and Banbridge paths always seem to cross, whether at school or club level, so we know a lot about each other,” says Haycock.
COOKSTOWN HIGH: Alistair Thom, Andrew McGuckin, Ian Sloan, David Ames, David Best, Jonathan Ames, Stephen Sloan, Mark Crooks, Adam Henry, David Atkinson, Stuart Smyth, Robin Johnston, Chris Hutchinson, Mark Wilson, Matthew Rollins, Keith Harkness.
BANBRIDGE ACADEMY: Andrew Mooney, Philip Doyle, Philip Brown, Scott Forbes, David Beck, Niall Kelly, Ciaran Kelly, Stephen Dowds, Tarak Chouari, Hugh McShane, Owen Magee, Matthew Berry, Richard Magowan, Matthew Gray, Hector de Courcey Wheeler, Matthew Knox.