Alan Paul celebrated his second Short Mat Players’ Tour victory at the Watson Stadium on Sunday night.
The big Mid Ulster man won the prestigious Irish Open title - the second world ranking event on the SMPT calendar - defeating fellow country man Gerry McCabe 11-5 in a gripping final.
“I’ve had a great start to the indoor season,” said Paul. “Colm McHugh and I also won a pairs competition at Markethill recently. The SMPT victory comes hot on the heels of that.
“I really enjoy the Tour events, although I really haven’t the time to play in them all. I only enter the tournaments that are played in Northern Ireland. In fact, I didn’t manage to play in any of the SMPT competitions last season as the dates clashed with my outdoor commitments.
“The tournaments are really well organised. With the group stages, you are guaranteed five matches. After that, you go into the knock phase in one of the three competitions - Cup, Shield or Plate, depending on how you finish in the section.
“It will be a busy season. I’ll be involved in the Mid Ulster team that competes in the Top Team tournament in Wales before December...and I also have the Home Internationals coming up in England. I’m also getting married, so it’s difficult to find time to travel to England or Norway to compete in any of the Tour events.”
Even though Paul is now residing in Craigavon -- he switched to Dunbarton for the outdoor term - he’ll still turn out for Mid Ulster in the IIBA Inter-zone games.
“I had a good first season with Dunbarton, winning the PGL Senior Cup," he added. "It could have been better, but we lost a couple of vital league matches.
“However, I’ll be still wearing the Mid Ulster shirt for the indoor season. I’ve got off to a great start, I defeated a few big names in the Irish Open. Hopefully, I can keep that going ahead of the Irish Masters Pairs that's coming up.”
Paul’s last big win on the Tour was back on April 14, 2013, when, in another all-Ireland final, he pipped Kevin Conroy to the World Masters crown.
There was no hiding his delight following his latest success. He topped his group, which included William Morrision, finishing with an unblemished run.
Paul then went into overdrive, beating Andrew Buchanan (10-8); Kevin Conroy (7-6); Ivan Craig (14-3); Sean Conroy (13-8) before ending the challenge of Paul Beattie at the semi final stage, winning a tense affair 8-6 after Paul had ditched the jack.
“I’m thrilled with this win,” he said. “I’ve waited long enough as my last SMPT success was three years ago. It was a tough couple of days, but I expected that. These tournaments are very full on, it’s just one game after the next. I had a really difficult game against Pauline in the semis, but the final worked out quite well for me.”
Paul dominated the showcase decider, moving into an early 4-2 lead. Things looked ominous for McCabe as he fell 7-2 behind. Although he pulled one back, he simply failed to cope with the accuracy of Paul’s drawing shots.
With the score at 9-5 - and Paul lying another two - McCabe decided to shake hands.
Results: Cup last 16: A Corrigan 11 D Doherty 6, A Jones 6 V Anderson 7; PJ McCrossan 10 J Pye 9; G McCabe 16 K Lackford 4; P Beattie 10 S Trainor 4; S Gale 7 J Gray 9; A Paul 13 I Craig 3; A Leckey 12 S Conroy 11.
Quarter finals: V Andersson 7 A Corrigan 8; P Beattie 13 H Gray 2; A Paul 13 S Conroy 8; PJ McCrossan 7 G McCabe 10.
Semi finals: Corrigan 7 McCabe 8; Beattie 6 Paul 8.
Final: McCabe 5 Paul 11. Bronze medal: Beattie 11 McCabe 5.
* A limited amount of places are still available for the popular Aughintober Indoor Bowls Club’s (South Tyrone) annual pairs tournament.
The competition all week, with the finals scheduled for Monday, September 26.
Organiser Raymond Wallace states all the midweek sections are filled, but there are slots still available on Saturday, September 24 for the afternoon (2pm) and evening sessions (7pm). Raymond can be contacted on 02887767001.