McKee at the double to blast Bann into decider
Banbridge 3 Cookstown 1
Two goals from Johnny McKee helped Banbridge defeat 10-man Cookstown 3-1 in yesterday's Kirk Cup semi-final at Stormont to keep alive their chances of retaining the famous trophy on Boxing Day.
Lisnagarvey stand in their way after the Hillsborough team beat South Antrim 6-0 in the second semi at the east Belfast venue.
Cookstown gave Bann a tough battle, belying their status as an Ulster Premier League side, having been relegated from the EY IHL last season.
However, they were left with too much to do when they were reduced to 10 men in the second-half when trailing 2-0 after Godfrey Irwin, who only recently came out of retirement, saw red.
After being shown a yellow card for a foul two minutes earlier, he was dismissed for not retreating at a free-hit and the umpire had no option but to brandish red.
Cookstown didn't do themselves any favours in the aftermath as they had two more men sent to the sin-bin for five minutes and so were down to nine for the bulk of the third quarter of the game.
Bannn captain Eugene Magee said: "It was good to get the win and I think we were able to take advantage when they were short-handed."
"We can now look forward to a big day out on Boxing Day and another crack at our local rivals.
"We ran them close in our two previous meetings this season, in the IHL and the Irish Senior Cup, going ahead in both games before losing by the odd goal so let's hope we can make it third time lucky."
Magee got Bann off to a dream start when he scored the opening goal after just 38 seconds.
Ireland's most-capped player, pounced on a right wing delivery to stab the ball home after Cookstown had made a hash of defending a high ball.
Magee and Drew Carlisle were then denied by Tyrone keeper Josh McCabe, who had a fine game, as Bann threatened to add to their tally.
McKee set off on a great run in the second quarter, racing clear of the Cookstown defence but was unlucky to see his shot drift into the side-netting.
McCabe foiled Magee shortly after the break after he had fired in a shot from an acute angle on the left as Cookstown continued to be on the back foot.
Bann's pressure paid dividends in the 42nd minute when McKee doubled their lead when he had time and space to tap home a pinpoint diagonal pass from Hugh McShane.
Little had been seen of the Ulster Premier League side in attack but they enjoyed their best spell after conceding the second goal.
Banbridge keeper Luke Roleston did well to stop a stinging shot from Max Anderson in the 45th minute and then Stuart Smyth pulled a goal back three minutes later.
He fired a superb shot high into the net on his backhand from the edge of the circle to give his team hope.
But McKee settled the contest when he swept in a penalty corner with three minutes left.
Banbridge: L Roleston; L Witherow, A Tinney, J McKee, P Brown, B McCandless, J Wright, E Magee, S Farson, D Carlisle, O Magee. Subs: E Rowe, H McShane, J Moffett, P Brown, D Ward.
Cookstown: J McCabe; M Rollins, D Crooks, P Thompson, J Haycock, M Anderson, S McCabe, M Crooks, S Smyth, K Black, C Anderson. Subs: G Irwin, S Wylie.