Ny Alan Rodgers
A COOKSTOWN team with the most impeccable Ulster and All-Ireland Club credentials once more embarks on a journey which could well lead to even greater glories for them in the months ahead.
The Fr Rocks captured Ulster and All-Ireland Club titles at Intermediate level in the past decade or so and now many of the same players who led them to those successes are again on board as they embark on the latest quest.
But they will have to be on top form, as their first game this Sunday in Clones sees them take on the Monaghan champions, Sean McDermott’s from Threemilehouse. The record of Monaghan teams in the Ulster Club competitions is only matched by those of Tyrone, so a tough encounter is being anticipated by Cookstown.
It’s a point acknowledged by their manager, Conall Lavery. As the celebrations as their Tyrone Junior success ease into the background for now, he’s well aware of the challenges ahead.
“Our Tyrone success was very important for the development of this team. We’re probably back at our natural level and will aim to push on,” he said.
“There have been a lot of Grade One teams in the club.
“The players have done well in the Ulster and All-Ireland Club in the past and they’ll relish this next challenge.
“We won’t be fearing anyone, but we’re playing the Monaghan champions. Monaghan and Tyrone seem to be the two teams in Junior who have been most successful. We have taken time to celebrate the Tyrone win and are now looking ahead.”
One of their main players during those past success and still is corner back, Ryan Pickering. He feels the rebuilding process has been boosted by their Tyrone win.
“There was a kind of generational gap in the team, a few players were hanging on and keeping us in Division Two. We are building, but the hard work starts now as we look ahead to Intermediate football again,” he said.
“The Ulster Club is always a good platform to build momentum and that’s what we’ll be trying to do if we can get a good run in it, but there’s no guarantees of course.
“The players have displayed a positive attitude throughout this year. It’s very important to have got promotion and hopefully we can keep this momentum going.”