THE final matches of the season have produced a new name to be engraved on the A. McLean Bookmakers Premier Shield.
Rather than concentrate on each match as it was played it will be better to look at events as they unfolded on the night.
Two teams were in the running for the title, O’Reilly’s who had led the table this past six weeks followed by Mulholland’s who had remained just one point behind after the same number of weeks.
Angler’s had an outside chance of a play-off for runners up spot but only if they beat McGrath’s at Angler’s and Mulholland’s lose to Market Bar. O’Reilly’s themselves had a tough encounter at First & Last meaning the title race was still undecided before each match had started.
When Angler’s led their match 3-2 they were still in the running for a runners-up play-off as Mulholland’s were trading a win for a loss in their match against Market.
There was a dramatic change when the McGrath’s side produced two wins out of the last three games to draw with Angler’s which in turn ended Angler’s chances of a second place play-off.
McGrath’s completed the season undefeated in the last four matches to finish mid-table, Angler’s third.
So now it was down to two teams capable of lifting the title. As mentioned Mulholland’s were not having it all their own way trading games with Market but leading 3-2.
O’Reilly’s at the same stage against First & Last had managed four wins for at least a draw but still not enough to secure the title, a fact not lost on Paddy Donaghy who urged his troops to concentrate on their own match and not that of the Mulholland’s score.
There was tension in both camps as the text messages were flying back and forward in an attempt to keep pace with the action.
News then filtered through from Dromore - Mulholland’s had won the last two games and the match through Isaac Mulholland and Raymie Jess.
At this stage and with O’Reilly’s, having at least a point Mulholland’s were actually tied on points with the Banbridge side the difference being O’Reilly’s still had two games to play and the outcome either a play-off or outright victory for O’Reilly’s.
The tension was compounded even further when First and Last closed the gap to 4-3 with a win through Philip McCourt over Ryan Romano.
Some of the O’Reilly’s supporters could barely watch as the final game got underway. Paddy did his best to calm the nerves of his young protégé Neill Monahan.
He needn’t have worried because the cheers rang out as Neill both calm and collected potted the black guaranteeing outright victory and the title by a point over Mulholland’s.
Once again the text messages went back and forward, especially congratulatory messages from Mulholland’s, a cruel blow losing out by a single point.
The celebrations in the O’Reillys camp were well deserved, at the start of the season Paddy made a statement he had a team capable of lifting the title, how right he was, congratulations O’Reilly’s, a new name on the A.McLean Bookmakers shield.
Elsewhere that evening matches were taking place not for titles or prize money but for pride and a bit of craic.
Higgin’s completed the season collecting both points at the expense of Golf Club.
Should there have been a prize for the most sporting team then Banbridge Legion would have won it hands down, they entertained Cullen’s who, had there been a prize for perseverance, would have won it by a mile.
The Tandragee side went through the season bottom of the table with their two wins courtesy of two walk-over’s plus two points earned with a previous draw then another in this match against Legion.
With the league tables finalised there are still two contests to be decided. The final of the Eddie Fearon memorial doubles sponsored by A. McLean Bookmakers will have been completed and the winners presented with the shield on the presentation night.
On the same evening the final of The Brendan McAdam Memorial Knockout Cup sponsored by The Coach Inn will have taken place between Castle Bar B v Market Bar A. A report will appear in due course.
As probably now known the chairman of the Banbridge & District Pool League has decided to step down - resign no, retire yes.
After 20 something years it is time to step aside, I leave the league in good hands as the current committee are more than keen to keep things going.
I have witnessed many outstanding pool matches not just in Banbridge but also Gilford, Dromore and even further afield. The pool played at some of our tournament finals was of the highest standard to be found anywhere.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Adrian Higgin’s, Davey and the staff at Pool HQ for making me feel more than welcome whether it was meetings or collecting score sheets.
Last but not least I thank the guys on the committee not just for their commitment over the years but also their friendship.
To all of you out there whom I have been fortunate to have met and on the odd occasion had many a contest on the table, you have a league to be proud of, keep up the good work.
A. McLean Bookmakers Premier Division
O’Reilly’s 22 35
Mulholland’s 22 34
Angler’s 22 31
Market Bar 22 27
First & Last 22 24
McGrath’s 22 22
Coach 22 22
Higgin’s 22 20
Banbridge Legion 22 19
Banbridge Golf Club 22 17
Cullen’s 22 6
Shepherd’s 10 7