Railway men close in on title

The Railways Arms are now within touching distance of winning the Tennents Coleraine Pool League Division 2 title with a hard fought victory over Social Club.

Arthur McMullan’s men now only require one point to secure the title and they will be confident of getting that point this week as they meet bottom placed Roost Bar. The Railway men had a busy week as they almost caused a major shock in the cup this week as they met Division 1’s Sperrin A in the Railway Arms Top 7 event.

McMullan’s side had led 7-5 only to lose 6 out of the last eight to fall to a heartbreaking 11-9 defeat. Tommy Morrow was the difference maker as he won 5 out of 5 to carry his teammates over the winning line. The Forge A maintained their three point lead at the top of Division 1 over the Sperrin A but the next couple of weeks will prove critical in the title race as the leaders face a tough tie against Bullseye A followed by a massive showdown with Raymond Stockman’s men which may well decide the destination of the title.

Division 1

Forge A 4 – 0 Social Club A

The leaders maintain their three point lead at the top of the Division 1 with their strongest performance for a number of weeks. Raymond Baxter and Peter Martin met in the opening contest, which turned out to be the poorest of the night. Baxter took the first but Martin had his chance with a poor choice of shot costing him, despite taking this lead Baxter never looked comfortable and he struggled in the second as Martin levelled up.

The decider was a shocking frame of pool with both players missing chances, Martin had what looked like a routine finish but managed to snooker himself oin his intended red. This gave Baxter a chance but an awful positional shot left him with a very difficult yellow. However, the Forge man produced his best shot of the match to pot the tough yellow and land perfect on the black. Baxter fared better in the next doubles match alongside Lee Hull. A break and finish was the Forge men go one up.

Their opponents Allen Tosh and Chris Moore went for a finish in the second but were unlucky trying to develop their last yellow, which gave control to their opponents. A 2-0 lead was sealed as another 8 ball finish was completed by the Forge duo. Marc Hutchinson has been in awesome form recently and this continued as he demolished Social Club’s Tosh in quickfire style. A break and finish in the first was followed by an 8 ball finish from Tosh’s dry break in the second, an top class display from the Northern Ireland international.

A battle of the left handers saw Paul O’Connor meet Lee Hull in the next singles. A good finish saw Hull take the first but O’Connor should have levelled only to miss a simple yellow to the middle. Hull could not take full advantage and left O’Connor another chance. However, he was unfortunate with his position on the black, missing a tough cut. This allowed Hull back to clear and secure the points for the home side. Player of the match – Marc Hutchinson

Forge B 2 – 4 Sperrin A

The Sperrin A keep the pressure on the leaders but they were made to battle all the way by a determined display from the bottom side. Dijon McCorkell started well as he gave Lee Caulfield a tactical masterclass in the first frame, however Lee stepped up a gear and showed some smooth potting skills to take the next two. The visitor’s lead was doubled as Billy Moore and Tommy Morrow controlled the next doubles match, against McCorkell and Steven McIlroy, running out comfortable winners.

The Sperrin expected to seal the first point in the next however Scott Clarke had other ideas as he took out a good finish against Morrow, after the Dervock man made a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes. Sperrin skipper Raymond Stockman did seal the first point as he beat McIlroy in straight frames. Steven broke in the first but fouled, with Raymond stepping in to take out a good 8 ball finish. The second frame got off to a slow start, McIlroy had the first chance, but a poor positional shot cost him.

Stockman teamed with Caulfield in the next doubles match and they raced into a 2-0 lead, looking good to seal the win. However, Clarke, alongside his captain Jamie Boyd, produced the goods for the second time on the night, as they reeled off the next three in a row to ensure the match went the distance. It was left to Billy Moore to save the day for the Sperrin once again, and he did not let his side down. However, opponent John Huston should have won the opener. The pressure seemed to show as he ran out of position when on an easy finish. Moore took this and then controlled the second frame to seal an important two points. Player of the match – Scott Clarke (Forge B)

Bullseye A 3 – 3 Forge Bar

A tight battle between the team sitting third and fourth respectively in Division 1. Gary Wallace got the home side off to the perfect start as he beat Sean McNicholl in straight frames. McNicholl had better luck in the doubles as he partnered Darren Boyd to victory over Jimmy Moore ans Adrian O’Kane. Chris Wade took the first against Moore in the singles, however Jimmy recovered well to rattle off the next two in a quick match.

Darren Boyd met Damien Reid in the next, Boyd took a good finish in the first. Reid should have took the second but missed a relatively simple yellow and Boyd stepped in to level the match. The home side went ahead once again through Reid and Wallace who beat Wade and Paul Baird 3-2. However, Baird saved a point for the Forge as he won a tense decider against Adrian O’Kane in the last. Player of the match – Darren Boyd (Forge Bar)

Division 2

Social Club 3 – 5 Railway Arms

The leaders got off to a slow start with John Sweeney producing one of his best performances of the year to beat Barry McLaughlin in straight frames. It looked like it would get worse as Lee McIlreavy & Willy McMullan took the lead in the first doubles match. However, McLaughlin, partnered by skipper Arthur McMullan, rallied well and they took the next two to make it 1-1 on the night. McIlreavy was straight back on in singles action and he ,as well as opponent Johnny McDowell, produced some quality pool.

After sharing the first two frames, young McIlreavy held himself together well to take the decider. The leaders showed why they are in the position they are as they stepped up a gear here after. Adam Watt got the beter of Simon McIlreavy to level the match. Watt then teamed with Ronnie McMullan and they got the better of Sweeney and Willy McMullan. However, Willy will be wondering how he missed a simple black in the second frame. The Social Club man was straight back on in the next looking to make amends for his miss. However, he was not helped as opponent Scott McClelland opened with a break and finish. McMullan replied in fine style with an excellent break and finish of his own, including an excellent cannon on the black.

McClelland went for game in the decider only to lose position on his final red. McMullan was in control, however his inexperience showed as he turned down the chance of a snooker to go for game. He missed his yellow and left McClelland a routine finish to secure a point for the Arms. In a true battle of the veterans, John McIlreavy met Railway captain Arthur McMullan next. McMullan should have took the first but after a couple of good pots he missed a straight black to the bottom pocket. McIlreavy took the opening frame after some safety exchanges. Neither player was at their best, as the second frame dragged on but it was McIlreavy who pulled through to ensure the match went the distance.

The Arms were fortunate to have the strong pairing of McClelland and McDowell drawn out last, they met Lee and Simon McIlreavy. The Arms duo complement each other well in this format and they wasted no time in disposing of their opponents to make it 5-3 and put the Railway Arms one point away from the title. Player of the match – Scott McClelland

Bull’s Eye B 7 – 1 Mary Pats

The home side solidified their second position with an impressive win against the Macosquin side. Keith Hunter took the first against Drew Hutchinson, but Hutchinson showed all his experience to level. The third was touch and go but Hutchinson gave Hunter a chance and the Bullseye man put his side one up. The pair met again in the doubles and it was Hunter, alongside Stephen Warwick, who took the first with a fine cut on the black.

Drew was alongside Andy Hutchinson, and it was Andy who played the shot of the match to leave his partner an easy black in the second. The decider was a comedy of errors, the Mary Pats pair looked to have a simple finish but an awful positional shot left them snookered, giving Hunter and Warwick two shots. However, it ws their turn to make a mess of a simple finish as Warwick missed the black. The Mary Pats duo got off the hook to level the match on the night. Chris McColgan took the next to put home side in front once again. In a tight contest against Leigh Sloan, McColgan controlled the opening frame but Sloan has shown some good form on his debut season and he took the second to level, although Chris had the first chance on the black.

The decider could have went either way but McColgan pulled through. Davy Logue and Andy Hutchinson shared the first two frames in their contest. Andy had the first chance in the decider but made a fatal mistake and the experienced Logue made it 3-1 to the home side. Logue then teamed with his skipper Warwick and they secured the first point disposing of the challenge of Sloan and Davy Rosborough. Warwick was due to play Rosborough in the next singles match but the potting display Warwick showed in the previous match must have scared his opponent away as it was recorded as a walkover win for Warwick, effectively ending the match. Kenny Watton beat Paul Henry in the next singles, then repeated the dose in final doubles match, partnered by McColgan. Player of the match – Davy Logue (Bull’s Eye B)

Sperrin B 5 – 1 Roost Bar

The sperrin B move into 3rd place on their own with this victory. Timmy Close met Pat Conway in the opener, with Close struggling in the first frame, allowing Conway to take the lead. However, Close knuckled down with an 8 ball finish in the second, followed by an equally comfortable win in the decider. Close made it a double, as he won the next doubles match alongside Gaz Mullan.

Sperrin captain Andy Lindsay made it 3-0 with a scrappy win over Stewart Mitchell, before Paul Brady secured the first point with a good display of finishing against Charlie Speight. Speight and Mitchell got their win though as they combined well to come from a frame down to beat Lindsay and Brady, enjoying a little bit of luck on the way. Gaz Mullan sealed the victory with a straight forward victory over Clive Robertson – Player of the match – Timmy Close (Sperrin B)

Railway Arms Top 7

Sperrin A 11 – 9 Railwy Arms

The second division champions elect got the chance to test themselves against one of the top teams in the league and they gave a very good account of themselves. It was Arthur McMullan’s men who got off to a great start as they took a 3-1 lead, however, they could not maintain this and their opponents hit back to leave a first session score of 4-4. The second session started exactly the same as wins for Adam Watt, Johnny McDowell and Stephen Blair, gave a 3-1 session lead and a 7-5 lead overall to the Arms.

However, three in a row from Billy Moore, Tommy Morrow and Lee Caulfield made it 8-7 to the Sperrin before McDoweel beat Raymond Stockman to level the match one again as 8-8 going into the final session. The Division 1 side showed their class and experience in the crucial last session as Morrow recorded his fifth win out of five. Adam Watt beat Billy Moore to ensure the match went the distance. Stephen Blair could not force the decider as Sperrin captain Stockman dragged his team over the line. They now face a semi final clash with their main rivals the Forge A on Monday 20th February.

Bull’e Eye A 11 – 7 Social Club A

This was another match that proved to be very thight throughout with the new one frame format. The Bull’s Eye took the first session lead 5-3, with a level second session leaving it 9-7 going into the last. However, wins for Gary Wallace and captain Damien Reid sealed the Bull’s Eye’s place in the semi final. Social Club A’s Allen Tosh will be disappointed with his team mates as Tosh managed to win four out of five of his frames, while the rest of his team only managed three wins between them. Damien Reid played the captain’s role for his team with four out of five also. The Bull’s Eye will now meet second division’s Sperrin B on Wednesday 22 February for a place in the final

This week’s fixtures

Division 1 - Forge A vs Bullseye A; Sperrin A vs Forge Bar; Social Club A vs Forge B.

Division 2 - Bullseye Old Boys vs Social Club; Roost Bar vs Railway Arms; Bullseye B vs Sperrin B; Mary Pats – Bye.

*The next league meeting will be held on Monday 13 February in the Railway Arms at 7.30pm. All teams are asked to have their monthly fees up to date on or before this date. Please note entry forms for this year’s Festival of Pool are now available. They are due to be returned by the end of February. Please see your captain for details