Rocks are no one man team

Ciaran Woods

IT'S been an eventful few years for Cookstown since their last visit to Croke Park.

Their 2010 All-Ireland success was followed by a relatively solid season back in senior football, before absences and emigration took their toll and at the end of the 2011 season they found themselves back in the intermediate ranks.

That relegation signalled the departure of Chris Lawn as manager and the subsequent appointment of the relatively unknown John McKeever as boss. The Antrim man, still only 31, hung up his own boots just under three years ago following a serious knee injury, and is a PE teacher in Cookstown's Holy Trinity College. He has rejuvenated the side, and saw them march to Tyrone and Ulster honours, reaching this weekend's All-Ireland decider courtesy of that hard-fought semi-final win over Charlestown. But it hasn't been easy.

They were taken to a replay by Eskra in the Tyrone final, they went to extra-time in the Ulster final against Warrenpoint, and it took extra-time to separate them and Charlestown in their last four clash. The Fr Rock's have certainly shown themselves to be up for a battle.

Owen Mulligan captains the side, and will relish another Croke Park outing, which has been the scene for some of his greatest footballing exploits. Outside of that, they have two Tyrone All-Ireland minor winning captains in Ryan Pickering (2008) and Shea McGarrity (2010). A host of their players have also picked up provincial and All-Ireland honours through their efforts with county minor sides and in schools action, with Holy Trinity in the vocationals and Dungannon Academy in the Hogan Cup.

Also worth keeping an eye on is attacker John Gilmore, who helped himself to four goals in three games in their Ulster run, while Marty Murray hit 1-1 in their All-Ireland semi-final. Any suggestion that Cookstown are a one-man team would, therefore, be very much wide of the mark.