AT the recent County Antrim Shield final , the Ballymena United faithful sang ‘there’s only one Geoff Cooke’ just minutes before a David Munster headed goal put Ballymena ahead on what turned out to be a memorable evening.
At the end of the game Ballymena player Jaime Davidson, our very own Pride of the Keel, unveiled a T-shirt which read “RIP Geoff Cooke This one’s for you”.
On Wednesday Geoff was laid to rest with a Ballymena Utd scarf and Liverpool scarf. The Cooke family had lost a brother, Ballymena Utd. a great supporter and like hundreds of local folk I had lost a terrific friend.
Raymond Geoffrey Cooke was the sixth child born to Alex and Greta Cooke. Geoff had 5 brothers Tom, Derek, Brian, George and Trevor and 2 sisters Iris and Donna. His father Alex was a plasterer and some of his sons followed that trade. t was no surprise Geoff would follow Ballymena Utd. since the family were to become great friends of Ballymena legend Sammy Frickleton.
Geoff was born in July 1952 and it was the 60’s that were to shape his life. The city of Liverpool was to become the centre of much influence. Gerry Marsden’s song “Ferry cross the Mersey” was the beginning of the Shankly era at newly promoted Liverpool. The Beatles heralded in an era of music and radical change, Geoff’s flowing locks were a testimony to this.
When I later arrived in my current role I needed a team of committed volunteers and Geoff became so much a part of it. As Sports Bond agent for Ballykeel he was so well accepted I affectionately called him the Laird of Ballykeel.
He was a great worker, helping with the signage for years often a skinned knuckle or nipped finger led to scowling or much banter between us, life was never dull with Geoff around as I and his soul mate of later years, Elaine Kenna, would testify to.
In recent weeks I have had to collect on Geoff’s Sports Bond as he was hospitalised. Believe me, I then saw how much Geoff’s members thought of him as the tears of many are testimony to.
On Sunday evening 26th I sat at Geoff’s bedside and said “Geoff we’ve got a problem, we can’t get you to the final”. Geoff smiled. Five hours later, surrounded by his family and friends Geoff lost his final battle to cancer. In his final weeks the support he had from Elaine was dedicated and exceptional.
Geoff in life was very much a Sky Blue. As the T-shirt read “RIP Geoff Cooke, this is for you.