Cookstown will play host to the first stage of Ireland’s men’s summer programme as they officially open their state-of-the-art water-based facilities as the club face the current Ireland men’s team at Coolnafranky (pictured, right) at 8pm on Friday night
Ireland manager Paul Revington has promised that his team will be strong one as part of the preparation for the Celtic Cup to be played a week later in Le Touquet before a series of matches against France, also at Coolnafranky in early July.
It will be part of the rebuilding process following the retirements of Stephen Butler and Graham Shaw and, with John Jermyn and Mikey Watt taking a summer break, the battle for midfield places is set to be an intriguing one.
To that end, midfield heir apparent David Ames (left) lines out for his home club along with Cookstown’s Irish U-21 stars. They will also have Reds legends Philip Barbour and Pete Cunningham, famously the first hat trickster on the water-based pitch, in tow.
The reds also hope to have ex-Great Britain captain Brett Garrard running out in a Cookstown shirt to mark the spectacular event.
This is the second time that Cookstown has been honoured with a match against the current international side following a match on their sand-filled pitch during the official opening in 1994.
Ireland come into the fixture off the back of a pair of impressive wins in training games against the Irish U-21s who are currently in preparation for the Junior Celtic Cup.
Cookstown Ladies will also grace the pitch against the Ulster President’s XI at 6.30pm in what promises to be a cracking game to excite Friday in Tyrone.
Club Vice Chairman Stephen Cuddy said of the occasion: “This is the culmination of many years hard work and we are indebted to the support shown by Sport NI,Cookstown District Council, Miller, Shearer and Black, Acheson and Glover, and Kelvatek.”
Sport Northern Ireland Chief Executive Eamonn McCartan commented: “Sport Northern Ireland is dedicated to developing people in sport, particularly young people, and we are delighted to be able to fund this facility.
“The club and the new facility will increase participation levels in hockey with our young people, females, schools and the local community. Members and individuals will also benefit from improved coaching structures, so providing effective pathways for future performance, which is a great result for all concerned”.