North West man Ryan O’Neill joins elite band of national winners

Terry Crawford
Terry Crawford

North West’s Ryan O’Neill wrote himself into the Irish Indoor Bowling Association’s record books after celebrating a double success in the National Championships at Richhill Recreation Centre at the weekend.

The United Services walked off with the singles and fours titles, but it was his victory in the former that proved to be a significant milestone because it meant that O’Neill had completed a ‘full set’ of national championships.

He now joins an elite band and becomes only the fifth player to have achieved a full compliment of national silverware. O’Neill can now rub shoulders with Edwin Irwin, Tommy Johnston, Ronald Stubbs and Jude Morris.

“It’s an honour to have joined such an array of great bowlers after winning the singles,” beamed O’Neill.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have been a national winner on three previous occasions in the pairs, triples and fours.

“And, I have been joined by Leigh Harrison in all those victories. It all started back in 2006 when we won the fours, now we’ve managed to get the trophy back again.

“We then triumphed in the triples in 2010. Leigh and I then won the pairs the year before last. It’s a real thrill to have at last got my hands on the singles title.

“I’m still trying to take it all in; it will probably take a day or two.”

O’Neill defeated Salisbury’s Terry Crawford in the singles decider. He roared into a 5-1 lead and there was no looking back after that.

In fact, Crawford managed to score on only four ends as O’Neill romped home 12-5.

The Ireland international then teamed up with his United Services colleagues, Nishy Lague, John Devine and Harrison for a showdown in the fours final against the Ulster Transport rink skipped by Stephen McKinley.

It developed into an intriguing affair with the scores level (8-8) after eight ends.

But it was the United Services who held their nerve when it mattered, pocketing a singles and a double to ease them over the finish line.

There was also a ‘first’ for Dayne Jordan and Mark Wilson, from Cookstown Parochial, who defeated Martin McAleese and Davy Walker (St Coleman’s) 12-6 to pick up the pairs title.

There was quite a scrap in the triples decider, with Nicky Haire (Hillsborough Social Club) and Mark Sproule (Cranagill) going toe-to-toe until the Lisburn skip pinched a single on the final end to win it.

Meanwhile, Armagh’s Pauline Beattie wrote herself into the record books by winning the ladies singles title for the sixth time!

But the St Mark’s (Portadown) player was pushed to the wire by Cookstown Parochial’s Bridgid Davidson, who conceded a two on the last end which proved crucial.

It wasn’t a good day for the Davidson family because her son, Daniel was beaten 17-8 by Shane Hand, who successfully defended his junior (Under-18) singles championship.

IIBA National Championships

Singles: R O’Neill (United Services) 12 T Crawford (Salisbury) 5.

Pairs: D Jordan, M Wilson (Cookstown High School) 12 M McAleese, D Walker (St Coleman’s, Dervock) 6.

Triples: A Reilly, Nathan Haire, Nicky Haire (Hillsborough Social Club) 9 P Whittle, T Mulholland, M Sproule (Cranagill) 8.

Fours: N Logue, J Devine, L Harrison, R O’Neill (United Services) 10 R Fiddis, B Johnston, D Coulter, S McKinley (Ulster Transport) 7.

Ladies singles: P Beattie (St Mark’s, Portadown) 10 B Davidson (Cookstown Parochial) 9.

Ladies pairs: J Wilson, M Wilson (Michelin) 8 E Hastings, G Blair (Ballywalter) 11.

Ladies triples: M Campbell, C Murray, B O’Neill (St Coleman’s) 11 E Haire, J McClure, L Hamilton (Glendermott Presbyterian) 16.

Junior singles: S Hand (Corduff) 17 D Davidson (Cookstown Parochial) 8.

Junior pairs: C Hastings, M Hastings (Ballywalter) 3 B Whittle (Cranagill), S Breen (St Anthony’s) 16.

Over-55 pairs: S Bell, G Bell (St Johnston Presbyterian) 11 B Taffe, S Conroy (Redeemer) 17.