Classy O’Neill closing in on short mat National double title success

Terry Crawford
Terry Crawford

There was just no stopping Ryan O’Neill in the IIBA National Championships at the Watson Stadium on Saturday.

The North West man was in top form, ploughing his way through a quality field to book a spot in the final singles and fours disciplines.

His latest success comes only seven days after steering the North West juniors to victory in the Under-18 Inter-zone tournament.

O’Neill, from the United Services, will face Salisbury’s Terry Crawford in the showcase singles decider at Richhill Recreation Centre on Saturday, March 22.

He’ll then be joined by Nishy Logue, John Devine and Leigh Harrison for a fours showdown against Ulster Transport’s Rodney Fiddis, Billy Johnston, Davy Coulter and Stephen McKinley -- they enjoyed a runaway 10-1 semi finals victory over Cookstown’s Damien McElroy.

“There is still a lot of work in front of me . . . I’ll just focus on one game at a time,” said O’Neill. “Terry will be a really tough opponent. He defeated Alan Paul on his way to the final, so that tell you everything you need to know about him.

“Stephen McKinley is a former national singles winner, so he know what is required at this stage. I was happy with my form in the qualifiers . . . hopefully I can keep that going at Richhill.”

O’Neill defeated Andrew Morrison, from 1st Ahoghill, 9-8 in a gripping semi final affair to book his place in the singles decider.

Ironically, he scored a 7-3 success over David Morrison - Alan’s brother - in the fours, which guaranteed his spot in the final.Alan Paul was looking to become only the second player since the legendary Curley Hopkins to win the singles title for the third time. And, things certainly looked good for quite some time for the Cookstown High School man.

He negotiated his way through the field until he came up against Crawford in the semi finals . . . and the Salisbury player produced an outstanding performance to clock up an 11-4 win.

Meanwhile, Pauline Beattie is back on the prowl for the Ladies singles title.

The St Mark’s, Portadown, player is only one game away from claiming the trophy for a record-breaking sixth time.

Beattie accounted for a former champion, Lynn Hamilton, in the semi finals, winning 7-4 to set up a repeat of the epic 2011 final with Cookstown Parochial’s Bridgid Davidson, who defeated Ann Rutledge 10-6 to book her spot.

However, on the down side, Beattie and her mum, Mae, lost the pairs crown they won last season.They were beaten by Jean Ringland and Alicia Weir, who then lost out (7-6) to the mother and daughter combination, Jennifer and Megan Wilson.

The Ballymena duo will now face 2008 champion Elaine Hastings, from North Down, who will be accompanied by her mother, Georgie Blair.

To make it a great day for the Hastings family, brothers, Curtis and Matthew - Elaine’s two sons - battled to the Junior Pairs final, defeating reigning champions, Shane and Niall Hand 12-4 in the semi-final.

Their final opponents will be Armagh pair, Bethany Whittle and Sean Breen.

l Kinghan Church Bowls Club is hosing an IIBA Licensed Singles tournament.

Qualifying nights are March 19, 20, 21, 24, 25 and 26. Two sections -- 6.30 or 9pm. The early section is played to a finish with the final game completed before the later action begins.

Limited to 10 entries per section. One from each section goes through to the finals night, on Thursday, April 3.

Contact: James Newell (07795362299) with the preferred night and section.

l Entries are now invited for the St Saviour’s, Portadown, 29th Open Pairs tournament.

The competitions gets under way on Saturday, March 15 and will Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, March 17-20.Contact: Billy Pierson (02838 333618).