THE Craigavon District darts league has always prided itself on being highly competitive and this proved to be the case in the much sought after Jim McCusker Cup last week as the Premier Bar claimed their first silverware when they overcame the odds to win the competition which was hosted by Eire Og.
Out of the seven matches played four of them went right to the deciding ninth leg with another two finishing 5-3 which only added to the atmosphere and tension. Having been drawn out against league leaders Drumgor in the first round the Premier started as underdogs but when they lost four out of the first five games to trail Drumgor 4-1 it looked like being an early night for the Church Place men, but they had different ideas and the quartet of Dee Blayney, Keith Beale, Mo Campbell and John Cinnamond managed to turn it around when they claimed the last four legs to record an excellent 5-4 win.
Their opponents in the semi-finals were Clann Eireann who came through a tough game against the Trojans. Having drawn both league games against each other there was never going to be much in it and so it proved with Clann Eireann taking an early 3-1 lead with wins from Ciaran McMahon, Kevin Oloan and Joe McCabe with Captain Andy Fairbairn replying for the Trojans. Rab Lewis and Joe McGahan soon pulled it level, but it was Mark Magee and Nathan McCabe who took Clann Eireann home to record a 5-3 win and send them into the last four.
In the other half of the draw last years finalists Celtic and the holders of the trophy INF clashed in the first round, but it was Celtic who gained revenge for that defeat when coming from 4-2 down to win 5-4. The INF took the first leg of the night when Terry Morrow hit a 19 darter in defeating Gerard Crewe only for Mick Millar and Tommy McErlene to put Celtic 2-1 up. Wins for Lee Culbert, Paddy Magill and Roy White put the INF on the brink of the semi’s but it soon swung back the way of the Celtic when Anto Crewe, Davy McCusker and Dessie Dunbar somehow managed to overcome nine match darts for the INF to win the match 5-4 and set up a semi-final clash against the hosts Eire Og.
Eire Og had claimed the first four legs in their match against the Stables and with the Stables unfortunately only having eight men it meant an early end to the tie with Eire Og winning on a 5-0 scoreline.
In the first semi-final having already beaten the league leaders Drumgor the Premier now faced eighth placed Clann Eireann which proved just as difficult a game. Clann Eireann took the early lead 3-1 but just as quick as they lead the soon trailed 4-3 only for Neil McCluskey to take it the distance when he levelled the match at 4-4. Clann Eireann then found themselves out of that bit of luck you sometimes need when Ciaran McMahon was millimetres away from making the final on a couple of occasions only to see Dee Blayney hit double 9 much to the delight of the Premier and dismay for the Shore Road men.
The second semi-final was just as intense and competitive as it went back and forth with Celtic prevailing 5-4. Micky Dunwoody put Eire Og ahead but Martin Haddock and Sean Farren made it 2-1 to Celtic. Paul McGahan levelled the match and when Mark McLernan hit a 180 and a 16 dart leg Eire Og were soon 3-2 up. Anto crewe levelled it at 3-3. Sam Frazer struck first blood for Eire Og but it was Davy Mccusker and Dee Breen who guided Celtic into the final to set up a clash against the Premier.
The final started off in style with Keith Beale hitting an 18 dart leg to give the winners the lead and when Mo Campbell got his third win of the night and Brian McCavigan scored heavily to claim the third leg the Celtic were again going to have come from behind. The next two legs were shared with Dessie Dunbar winning for Celtic and John Cinnamond replying it was now 4-1 and only one more leg needed for the title. The final leg again proved to be the hardest to win and with Tommy McErlene and Dee Breen hitting their doubles the Celtic club were right back in it.
It was down to Simon Kendrick to seal it when double 16 was to be the last score of the night as he took the eighth leg of the final and bring the Jim McCusker Cup back to the Premier Bar in their debut season.
On Saturday it was qualifying round two of the Drumgor open and with 29 entries. It was Keith Beale who claimed the honours defeating Terry Morrow in the final. Beaten semi-finalists were Micky Campbell and Dave McCusker.