Sloan seals glory for Cookstown

 

HOCKEY: MEN'S IRISH SENIOR CUP FINAL: Cookstown 4  Monkstown 3:THE PRODIGIOUS talents of Ian Sloan lit up Belfield yesterday as the 17-year-old’s pair of drag-flicks handed Cookstown their first Irish Senior Cup title since 1987.

For one so slight, producing such power to beat Irish international David Fitzgerald is one thing. But the son of Irish international parents, Marty and Adele, also demonstrated all-round ball control and pace to show there is far more than just a superb penalty corner technique to his game.

It was a day when Cookstown got their tactics spot on, sitting deep to frustrate Monkstown’s famed counter-attacking game and the aerial bombardment from Richard Sykes and Andy Ewington.

Ewan Butler’s man-marking, meanwhile, kept the sky-blue leading light Gareth Watkins quiet – something few others have done this season.

For Monkstown, it was a third final defeat in four seasons and – like those other appearances – they got off to an awful start, falling two goals behind inside six minutes.

Gareth Cuddy robbed Gavin Groves to squeeze in the first before Sloan’s cross was finished off by Gareth Allen for 2-0.

Sitting deep did invite Monkstown forward and, while they were not able to make circle penetrations, the Dubliners resorted to crash balls. A couple went close before Stephen Cole thumped diagonally into the path of Andy Ward who deflected to the net.

New Zealander Andy Ewington – in his last game before returning home – levelled on the half hour from a penalty corner.

It looked like they were more likely to push on from there but Cookstown’s counter-attack was cleverly orchestrated, Mark Crooks and Sloan doing the leg-work down either flank.

One thrust down the right saw Sykes pinged for the Ulster side’s first short corner which Sloan duly busted through Fitzgerald’s defences. It was 3-2 at half-time.

Mark Crooks had another one chalked off just after the break but the Sloan made it 4-2 with another drag-flick in the 61st minute to all but seal the title.

Monkstown bossed the possession but it was to the detriment of their natural, counter-attacking instinct as Richard Sykes had little room to fire overheads while their pacy attacks were shackled by a red wall of several defenders.

Talisman Gareth Watkins was uncharacteristically subdued, marshalled superbly by Butler, and while Ewington got lucky to pull one back with three minutes left, it proved too little too late.

MONKSTOWN: D Fitzgerald, N Dee, G Groves, G Watkins, F Lee, D Cole, F Ryan, S Cole, B McEnery, K Good, R Sykes. Subs: A Ewington, E O’Connor, A Ward, R O’Moore, B Groves.

COOKSTOWN:I Hughes, M Rollins, G Irwin, G Cuddy, T Hutchinson, E Butler, I Sloan, A Barbour, D Best, G Allen, T Smyth. Subs: M Crooks, R Nelson, S Smyth, P Thompson, S Stewart.