Shetland staged a memorable comeback to win the 25th men’s pool inter-county match, played at the Commodore Hotel in Orkney.
Thirteen players represented each team and the format was three sets of 13 singles matches, each match consisting of two games. Every game counted as one point so there were 78 points up for grabs.
In the first set Shetland started well, leading 4-2 and then 8-6. But Orkney fought back and ended up 14-12 ahead after the first set. Shetland’s James Ramsay, Steve Duncan, Davie Sandison and Adam Swift took the maximum two points from their matches.
In the second set Orkney won seven out of the opening eight games to lead 21-13. Shetland were struggling, while Orkney, playing with confidence, punished their opponents repeatedly to open up a 10-game lead at 31-21. Neil Johnson and Colin Irvine were the only Shetland players to win their matches 2-0.
With a huge deficit Shetland had to start the final set strongly to have any hopes of regaining the trophy. They did that, taking nine out of the first 12 games, reducing Orkney’s lead to 34-30. Orkney stopped the rot, however, sharing the next eight games to make the score 38-34 in their favour.
With three matches remaining Orkney were firm favourites, only needing two points to retain the cup.
There was great excitement in the Shetland team when Ryan Duncan potted the black to win his match 2-0. Seconds later George Fraser wrapped up his match 2-0 leaving Richard Young, on the centre table, who was one down to his opponent at the time, needing to win his final game to draw level. Under extreme pressure he held himself together to clear the table and level the match at 39 all.
So it was down to a play-off – one set of 13 single game matches with the first to seven taking the cup.
An elated Shetland team, now in the ascendancy, took advantage and won the first six games, needing only one more for victory. Orkney made it 6-1 but could not stop George Fraser winning his match to regain the trophy for Shetland.
In an extraordinary match, with an atmosphere never experienced before, Shetland showed outstanding fighting qualities and great team spirit to make one of the most amazing comebacks in the history of the event.
As it was the 20th anniversary for the women’s competition and the 25th anniversary for the men the Orcadian hosts pulled out all the stops to put on a feast of action with veterans’ matches and singles competitions added to the usual team games.
Even though there were a few travel delays the women’s veteran match went ahead as planned on Thursday afternoon. This was played in the old style format of three doubles and six singles, all over the best of three.
Amanda Cutt and Sandra Pearson 2-0, Jackie Leask and Wendy Somerville lost 2-1 and Caroline Duncan and Inga Tait went down 2-1.
In the singles Jackie won 2-0, Caroline lost 2-1 and Sandra lost 2-0, which left Shetland requiring all three remaining singles to win.
Amanda did the business, winning 2-0, and Wendy Somerville won 2-1 to leave the score 4-4. The two captains were next and Inga won 2-0 against Jean Monk to give Shetland a 5-4 overall victory.
Friday saw the start of the women’s singles and after some fine play Caroline, Tracy Birnie and Inga, along with Rachael Sutherland from Orkney, got through to the semi-finals.
Caroline played Rachael and narrowly lost 3-2, while Tracy, playing in top form, beat a struggling Inga 3-1.
The final was played over the best of seven frames and Rachael proved too strong for Tracy, taking the match 4-2.
On Saturday the main team competitions took place and were played over three sessions with seven players, each playing two frames per session; in total 42 frames with 22 being the number for the win.
In the first session Shetland got off to a flying start with Tracy, Sarah Jackson and Amanda getting two frames each. Caroline got one and Mel Inkster took a frame from Jean Monk. Inga lost 2-0 and the last game was a 2-0 win for Jackie over Rachael. At the end of the first session the score was 10-4 to Shetland.
Orkney came back slightly in the second session and the score was 8-6 to Shetland with Caroline and Tracy both winning two frames and Sarah, Inga, Amanda and Jackie winning one. At this point the score was 18-10 and Shetland only needed four to win.
Rachael defeated Jackie 2-0 and both Sarah and Tracy drew their matches 1-1, which meant two frames were requred for victory and with Inga and Amanda on the respective tables hopes were high. Inga won her first and Amanda lost her first frame, but she took the next and won the match. Inga finished with a 2-0 win and Caroline finished with a 1-1 draw, making final score 24-18 to Shetland.
The player of the match award went to Tracy Birnie for her excellent play, winning five frames out of six.
A spokeswoman said the women’s team would like to thank hosts Orkney for their hospitality, hard work and effort, and also NorthLink.
The final match on Sunday was the men’s veteran match. This was played 14-a-side, giving seven doubles and 14 singles matches, all best of three with the first to 11 being the winner.
Due to travel difficulties Shetland had to poach a few players from the A Team. This did not deter Orkney as they quickly moved into a 2-0 lead. Colin Reid and Bob Budge took a 2-0 win over Vic Johnson and Richard Young and Steward Hutcheon and Neil Drever just edged out Dave Suckley and Ryan Duncan 2-1.
Abby Leask and Ronnie Leask took the first win for Shetland 2-0, and Shetland then levelled the match 2-2 with Gerald Russell and Paul Johnson securing a 2-1 victory over Dave Gracie and Michael Montgomery.
Willum Mouatt and Alan Johnson got the better of Byng Munro and Cliffy George. John Thomson and Dod Sutherland then squared the match with a 2-0 win over Adam Swift and George Fraser. The match was even at 3-3 until Davie Sandison and Kenny Henry beat Angus and Eric Sutherland 2-0.
The singles matches got under way after a break. Ryan Duncan got off to a good start, but Paul Johnson and Abby Leask both lost and the match was once again all square at 5-5. The next four matches were shared – Gerald Russell and Davie Sandison both put wins on the scoreboard but John Thomson and Cliffy George again squared the match to 7-7 and all was still to play for.
Bob Budge restored the lead for Orkney but George Fraser managed to even the score 8-8. Wins for Shetland by Davie Suckley and Allan Johnson put Shetland back ahead at 10-8. Orkney managed to stem the tide when Eric Sutherland beat Ronnie Leask but Shetland were not to be denied and it was left to Kenny Henry to seal the match with a 2-0 victory over Michael Montgomery. Merv Sinclair tidied up the last match for Orkney, giving a final score of Shetland 11, Orkney 10.