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Bann marksman catches Reds cold for comfortable win


Silver lining: Banbridge players celebrate with the trophy after beating Cookstown

Silver lining: Banbridge players celebrate with the trophy after beating Cookstown

Silver lining: Banbridge players celebrate with the trophy after beating Cookstown

Ulster's top marksman Stephen Dowds may have shown flu symptoms prior to the game but he still managed to catch Cookstown cold at the start of the second half to spark Banbridge's comfortable Kirk Cup final win at Lisnagarvey.

Dowds struck twice inside six minutes just after the interval to take his goals tally to an amazing 47 this season and end the Tyrone side's brave bid to land the trophy for the second time in three years.

It means Bann have now gone 19 games unbeaten this season, scoring 108 goals, and if they maintain that red-hot form, then there is sure to be more silverware on the way to Havelock Park before the curtain comes down in May.

There was some doubt prior to the game whether Dowds would make the starting line-up as he was still feeling the effects of a bad knock on his knee at an Irish international training session in Dublin almost a fortnight ago, and had also developed a heavy cold.

And although Cookstown contained him in the first half, the prolific striker suddenly burst into life in the second period to carve open the defence and score Bann's second and third goals.

The Tyrone side started with skipper Greg Allen playing in a defensive role, and although that helped keep things tight at the back, it left them a little lightweight upfront.

Bann soon took the initiative and Fraser Mills was only just on the pitch as a rolling substitute when he collected a crossfield pass from Bruce McCandless to move into the circle and crash the ball past goalkeeper Ian Hughes.

Dowds hit the crossbar from the only penalty corner in the first half and indeed Bann had two other good chances, with Neil Gilmore having a good effort saved by Hughes and another effort flashing wide of the post.

But before Cookstown had settled down in the second period, they found themselves effectively out of the game as Dowds struck twice in just six minutes, both from open play.

The first started with Peter Brown sending Dowds down the left, and the striker swapped passes with schoolboy Johnny McKee before slotting the ball home.

And his second saw McKee combine with him again at the edge of the circle to give him the chance to fire home his 47th goal of the season.

He could easily have netted his ninth hat-trick of the campaign but failed at two penalty corners and also sent a snap shot sailing wide.

Cookstown then sent skipper Allen to his usual forward role and it coincided with their best spell of the game.

Suddenly they were pressing higher, and for the first time the solid Bann defence of Drew Carlisle, Matthew Bell and Phillip Brown had to work hard to keep them at bay.

Their pressure saw them win their first penalty corners of the game and they finally pulled a goal back from second phase play, with Stuart Smyth pouncing on a poor clearance to crack the ball past keeper Lennox.

But it was too little too late.

Belfast Telegraph

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