Gerry McCabe may have walked off with the Short Mat Players’ Tour World Masters title at the Watson Stadium late on Sunday night, but his Ireland teammate Cecil Dillon retained his number one slot at the top of the ranking table.
The West Down man bravely battled his way into the last 16 of an event that attracted a whopping 252 players on the starting grid, before he eventually lost out to Kevin Conroy, who won the World singles title in Wales a fortnight ago.
But Dillon still did enough to guarantee his world ranking status. In fact, his place at the top of the leader board was sealed after topping his group, that featured Sweden’s Jonas Hagar, Dom Reed, from England, Brian McCoy, Michael Lynch and Calvin Heaverin.
Dillon then defeated Andy Thom and David Beattie to set up a confrontation in the last 16 against Conroy, who went on to win 15-8.
Nevertheless, Dillon, who won the English Master back in February, lifted the Henselite Order of Merit Trophy and £250 top prize.
Armagh’s Joe Beattie’s showing in the Masters also helped him clinch second place, ahead of Belgium’s Dimitri Payne. Ireland’s Mark Beattie and Jal Richardson completed the top five.
As Dillon’s title challenge fizzled out, McCabe’s aspirations gathered momentum as he surged on to lift his first Short Mat Player’s Tour trophy, which culminated in a thrilling win over Lisburn’s Paul Reid in the final.
“I’m obviously thrilled, but it will take a bit of time for it all to sink in,” beamed McCabe. “It’s been a tough few days. This was a most daunting starting field, with many of the world’s best short mat players in the line-up.
“I just concentrated in making the top two in the group before the knockout stages started. After that, it was a matter of taking one game at a time -- but they were all tough games.”
McCabe cruised through his section games to steam into the last 64. His demolition job continued by defeating Glenn Henry 14-10 to earn a spot against Glenn Smith.
The Cookstown man certainly pushed McCabe to the wire before edged into round four on a 14-12 score.
Owen Kelly was next to buckle under the McCabe surge, winning 9-4 to set up a quarter final meeting with Pauline Beattie.
Again McCabe had to call on all his powers of resistance before he finally ended the Armagh women’s challenge (10-8).
Kevin Conroy’s hopes of adding the Masters title to the the world short mat singles in Wales a fortnight ago, hit the buffers at the semi final stage when he lost out 10-9 to McCabe, who now had the title firmly in his sights.
The Oriel man got off to a blistering start in the showcase decider, moving into a 5-0 lead after only three ends, courtesy of a three, two and single.
But Reid – he edged past the challenge of Mossley’s Eddie Crawford in his previous outing – gradually came to terms with the occasion by wining the next three (two and two single).
His opponent broke away again by counting a sinle on the seventh. But the big turning point came on the ninth end when McCabe reeled in a two to move 8-5 in front – and the finish line was in sight.
And, the wrapped it up with a certain degree of panache with rolling in another two to spark scene of great celebration.
In the bronze medal play-off Conroy had the consolation of defeating Crawford 10-6 and, in the Plate final, Niall Cox defeated Mark Petticrew 11-10.
Meanwhile, Gary McNabb won the two-bowl singles tournament that preceded the Masters, with a narrow 18-15 win over Nathan Haire in the final. .
McNabb booked his spot in the final by beating Trevor Turkington 14-14 in the semis.