John McCullough reflects on bittersweet tournament

Ballybrakes' Derek Smith, Stephen Falls and Ian McClure celebrate after winning the triples final as Belfast's John McCullough(right) looks on
Ballybrakes' Derek Smith, Stephen Falls and Ian McClure celebrate after winning the triples final as Belfast's John McCullough(right) looks on

John McCullough admitted he was thrilled to pick up the Irish singles title at the Watson Stadium, but his joy was tinged with sadness after surrendering his triples crown for the first time in four years.

The Belfast player produced a magnificent performance to defeat 2011 winner Mark McPeak 21-19 in an epic encounter.

However, in a record-breaking triples final earlier in the day, McCullough, joined by Stephen Gibson and Mike Merritt, lost the triples trophy they had paraded for the past three years.

They were edged out 10-9 by Stephen Falls, Derek Smith and Ian McClure an a five-hour marathon session.

“I’m absolutely thrilled with the singles success,” beamed McCullough. “I’ve waited so long for this moment. I knew it would be a battle against Mark and that’s what it was. It could have gone either way, but thankfully I managed to hold my nerve when it mattered.

“It’s just a pity I couldn’t have made it a double success.”

McCullough was forced to the wire in his singles semi final outing against Barry Kane from the Ballybrakes Stadium, winning 21-19.

He had again had to call on all his powers of resistance to edge out McPeak on a similar score.

The game was delayed due to the fact that the triples final, in which McCullough was involved, took almost five hours to be decided.

It was a marathon session that required an extra end. Eventually, Falls, Smith and McClure emerged with a one-shot winner.

Irish international McClure earlier enjoyed a runaway 17-5 win over Trevor Robinson’s County Antrim side, while Merritt beat Roy Battersby 16-15.

Gary Kelly roared to victory in the Under-25 singles. The Ireland international was in superb form, beating 16 year old Reece Millar, from Belfast, 21-7 in the semis before ripping through the challenge of Mark Jones (Ballybrakes Stadium) in the final, winning 21-12.

There was double disappointment for Alistair Kennedy and Barry Kane from the Ballybrakes club. Not only were they both beaten in the semi final of the singles, but they also lost out in the final of the pairs.

It looked so good when they defeated John McCullough and Simon Martin (Belfast) in the semi finals, but they come up against a determined David Nixon and Mike Merritt in the decider and the Belfast boys steamed home 25-17.

And there was also ‘home’ success in the fours with Paul Prunty, Jim McGetterick, Roy Battersby and Paul McEwan who enjoyed a 23-12 victory over Andy Kyle’s County Antrim combination in the final.

Results round-up:

AIIB National semi finals - National singles: M McPeak (BIBC) 21 A Kennedy (BCIBC 2); B Kane (BCIBC) 19 J McCullough (BIBC) 21. Final: McPeak 19 McCullough 21.

Junior singles: M Jones (BCIBC) 21 S Coleman (CAIBC) 8; G Kelly (BCIBC) 21 R Millar (BIBC) 7. Final: Jones 12 Kelly 21.

National pairs: B Hughes, W McCaw (BCIBC) 16 D Nixon, M Merritt (BIBC) 18; J McCullough, S Martin (BIBC) 12 A Kennedy, B Kane (BCIBC) 15. Final: Merritt 25 Kane 17.

National triples: JR Nicholl, M Nutt, T Robinson (CAIBC) 5 S Falls, D Smith, I McClure (BCIBC) 17 ; S Gibson, J McCullough, M Merritt (BIBC) 16 M McPeak, S Bennett, R Battersby (BIBC) 15. Final: McClure 10 Merritt 9.

National fours: JR Nicholl, R Coleman, M Nutt, J Baker (CAIBC) 16 S Shields, T Robinson, G McKee, A Kyle (CAIBC) 23; P Prunty, J McGetterick, R Battersby, P McEwan (BIBC) 15 S Falls, N Robinson, D Smith, I McClure (BCIBC) 13.

Final: Kyle 12 McEwan 23.

Senior fours: B Sloan, J Kilpatrick R Johnston, M Dunlop (BIBC) 19 E Armstrong, S Walker, C Stewart, M McCullagh (BCIBC) 12.

Senior fours: W McLearon, R Calvin, A Scott, H Elliott (BCIBC) 8 J Baird, R Coleman, J Caldwell, R McCune (CAIBC) 20.

Final: Dunlop 9 McCune 14.