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Cookstown eye Garvey scalp after bright start

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Hot-shot: Stuart Smyth got a hat-trick in the opening game

Hot-shot: Stuart Smyth got a hat-trick in the opening game

Hot-shot: Stuart Smyth got a hat-trick in the opening game

Cookstown are aiming to build on their best ever start in the EY Irish Hockey League by inflicting more agony on former champions Lisnagarvey on Saturday.

The Tyrone lads are generally slow starters but this season they came out of the blocks with all guns firing and, in their first ever opening day win, slammed newly promoted Dublin YMCA 7-1.

In fact, last season they managed just one win in their first 14 league games and their previous IHL campaign two years earlier saw them record a single victory from their first nine outings.

But there's an air of confidence at Steelweld Park this term, after coach Michael Haycock put his players through a gruelling build-up.

"We have worked very hard on our corners over pre-season and it paid off as we slotted in five against Dublin YMCA, with Stuart Smyth getting three of them," said captain Greg Allen.

"This week against Lisnagarvey will be another tough test but every week in the IHL is tough!"

Normally there would be an element of fear when teams play Garvey, but the exodus of players has left the Blues depending heavily on a handful of Ulster's Under 18 representatives.

Garvey lost their opening game at home to Pembroke and, although they believe things can only get better, they are aware that the Red Army present another difficult hurdle.

All four Ulster teams in the IHL are playing north of the border this week for a change, with Banbridge and Annadale both at home.

Bann's late win over all-Ireland champions Three Rock Rovers last week set tongues wagging and Mark Tumilty's lads are determined to build on that when they host Cork C of I.

The Munster men held Bann to draws twice last season - 4-4 at Havelock Park and 2-2 at Garryduff - and that's something Tumilty wants to improve upon this term, although he accepts his players will have to maintain a high tempo rather than drift off like last week when it almost cost them victory.

Cork have Denis Pritchard back as head coach while former Ireland striker Jonny Bruton has returned after a lengthy spell in Dublin but there remains a lack of strength in depth.

Meanwhile, Queen's and Portadown will bid to make it three wins from three in the Ulster Premier League on Saturday.

The focus is generally on Kilkeel, Bangor and Instonians, but the Ports and the students are out to maintain their table-topping positions when they face Antrim and Mossley, respectively.

Queen's have made great strides under Mark Burns and Billy McConnell and could be the team that challenge the so-called Big Three.

Kilkeel and Instonians host North Down and Newry respectively, while Bangor take on Belfast Harlequins and Raphoe face Civil Service, both on Friday evening.

Belfast Telegraph


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