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Allen leaves injury woe in past to blast two trebles

By Graham Hamilton

Cookstown's Greg Allen has started the new season with a bang - with two hat-tricks in the opening Kirk Cup pool games.

It was just over a year ago that Allen had to undergo surgery to overcome a hip problem and he only made his comeback in the last two months of the season in what proved to be a frustrating campaign.

The Tyrone side somewhat suffered in his absence and were eventually relegated from the Irish Hockey League along with Annadale.

But with all the injury and fitness problems firmly behind him, Allen is already back to his dynamic best and his club are feeling the benefit as they are just one game away from clinching a place in the Kirk Cup semi-finals as Pool D winners.

He opened his account with a treble against Campbellians in a 10-2 midweek win and followed it up with a second hat-trick in Saturday's 11-0 success over Cliftonville at Steelweld Park.

And now a draw in their final pool game against South Antrim at Friends tomorrow evening (8pm) will be suffice to put them through to the last four, from which they can qualify for the Boxing Day decider.

"Last season was a bit of a nightmare," admitted Allen. "The surgery was in September and it was March and April before I was playing again and the fitness levels were up.

"But over the summer I have worked hard and now I'm hopefully back in shape and enjoying myself.

"I'm in more of a midfield role this time, but the goals have been coming already, although Saturday's league opener at Annadale will be our biggest test yet.

"I don't set myself goal targets but with six so early, it gives me a bit of confidence for the campaign ahead."

Allen wasn't the only hat-trick man on Saturday - former Cookstown colleague Simon Todd grabbed three for Mossley in their 9-2 Pool C success at Antrim.

And Portadown's Steven Johnston also had a treble in their Pool B 5-2 win over Bangor at Edenvilla.

Altogether there were 45 goals scored in Saturday's eight games, and added to the midweek results, it means there has already been 97 from a total of 16 matches - a healthy six a game.

Annadale are likely Pool A winners following their 1-0 and 3-0 wins over North Down and Civil Service respectively, a solid start for player/coach Peter Caruth who rejoined them after a spell abroad and then in Dublin with Monkstown.

But Pool B and Pool C aren't so straightforward.

Portadown have opened with two wins but must avoid defeat tomorrow evening at Kilkeel.

The Mournemen were shocked when they lost 2-1 at home to Raphoe whose goals came from Alex Tinney and Luke Witherow and need a win to get back in contention.

Belfast Harlequins are top of Pool C with two wins but must get something from their trip to Mossley on Thursday evening to make it to the last four.

Kirk Cup Pool A: Annadale 3 (A McAllister, C Robson, S Cox) Civil Service 0; North Down 3 (T Donnan, C Speers, A Gilmore) Newry 1 (A Baird).

Pool B: Kilkeel 1 (D Rae) Raphoe 2 (A Tinney, L Witherow); Portadown 5 (S Johnston 3, S Stevenson, R Scott) Bangor 2 (D McClune 2).

Pool C: Belfast Harlequins 3 (C Lemon 2, L McClelland) Queen's 1 (M Keane); Antrim 2 (S McIlroy, A Reilly) Mossley 9 (S Todd 3, J Hill 2, C McLean 2, R Beown, P Hamill).

Pool D: Cookstown 11 (G Allen 3, A McWhirter 2, M Crooks, D Crooks, R Miller, J Ames, S Smyth, T Sloan) Cliftonville 0.

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