The Premier Division was more or less wrapped up on Thursday night and that was without leaders TJ's A having to lift a cue. Second placed Whitecross slipped up badly despite leading on 4 different occasions against Hustlers. 3rd placed Sheepbridge A suffered a shock defeat to the inconsistent Orchard Bar.
Whitecross started the night 6 points behind leaders TJ's A but with a game in hand and knowing they hosted the champions in the very next league game so could potentially have closed the gap to 2pts.
Cathal Phelan got the visiting Whitecross off to a flyer with a good finish against a very useful Tucker Hughes. Michael Feenan missed a chance to make it 2-0 and Shane McAllister capitalised to draw the teams level.
Shane Phelan was on form when he restored the Whitecross Bar advantage when he saw off John Little. The next game was crucial as the 2 teams' star players went head to head. Marty O'Callaghan of Whitecross is having a sensational season and he took on Cathal McCoy of Hustlers who is having a cracking season. It was nip and tuck but O'Callaghan made the 1st mistake and McCoy wasted no time in drawing the game level at 2-2.
Paddy O'Callaghan was bang on form and played well to beat Dee Kearney. Kearney missed a tricky finish and O'Callaghan potted well to make it 3-2 Whitecross. Again Hustlers fought back and league Secretary Micky Cunningham Was in full control when he took the Scalp of Joseph McTaggart to square the match for the 3rd time for Hustlers at 3-3.
Mickey O'Hanlon is having a brilliant season for Whitecross and he finished superbly against Barry Murphy who was not at his best and 2nd place Cross looked on the brink of a huge win. But they hadn't accounted for Ciaran O'Neill who was cueing like a dream and his Whitecross opponent Brian O'Neill had no answer to the prolific potting and it was a point dropped for outside Championship hopefuls Whitecross. This was a crucial point for Hustlers as it keeps brings them out of the relegation zone and up to 11pts, 1pt ahead of Windmill who are on 10pts. With Dan's C 3pts adrift on 7pts it looks like Division 1 pool for them next season.
It's only a mathematical dream now for Sheepbridge A to pick up the Premier Division title. 2 massive points slipped through their fingers as the Orchard Bar rolled in to the bowling alley. Harvey Lavelle opened the scoring when he beat Orchards star player Karl McGuinness to put the hosting Sheepbridge 1-0 up.
Orchard hit back when Tony McGorvern not surprisingly beat Barry Duffy to draw level but the jitters were creeping in for Sheepbridge when the excellent Pat Brady was felled by Brendan Devlin. Devlin is no world beater and this was a monumental shock for Sheepbridge.
Dermot Lonergan managed to hold it together for the 'Bridge' in a really tight match with Lee Irvine as the nerves were there for all to see. It was 2-2 and Sheepbridge had some top players about to come to the baize.
Northern Irish International Paddy Tavey is playing a lot of pool lately but some how he managed to lose to Niall Davis (no disrespect to Davis). Tavey would be expected to win this game 9 times out of 10. Another stunning blow was Niall McVerry getting blasted out of it by Ritchie Crawford. McVerry is having a good season and is a great potter. Crawford had his glory days with the Hockey Club and is struggling this season. Crawford did play well though and he made it 4-2 to Orchard Bar.
Mervyn Kernaghan is another Orchard player that blows hot and cold and he is the perfect example of Orchard team this year - you just never know what you are going to get. Bernie Magee has won everything the local game has to offer but Kernaghan managed to nick it and seal 2 great points for the visitors.
Seamus McGeoghegan grabbed a consolation for Sheepbridge with a dead rubber win over Darren McCloskey. The final score of 5-3 to the Orchard is just another example of what this team is capable of. They are the only team to take points off all 3 of the title contenders TJ's A, Whitecross and Sheepbridge. The defeat for Sheepbridge leaves them 7pts behind TJ's A but more significantly 2pts behind 2nd placed Whitecross.
Carrickcruppen had a massive win away to Windmill Bar to put a bit of space between themselves and the other other relegation rivals. Niall McGeough put the hosts Windmill 1-0 when he defeated (captain) Paul Hughes. Tommy Lavelle equalised when he beat Chris Marley.
Ian McDonald and Jamie Lavelle made it 3-1 with wins over Ruairi Devlin and Conor Cunningham.
Aaron O'Callaghan pulled it back to 3-2 when he beat Martin McVeigh and Windmill were back in it. The other Aaron O'Callaghan and no less of a natural potter put Carrickcuppen on the hill and ensured a minimum of a draw when he beat Stevie Gray.
This one was going to the wire though as Conor McKeown beat Stephen Lavelle. Pat Byrne was the 'Cruppen' hero when he took both points home to Camlough with a win over Connor Heaney. The important win puts Carrickcuppen on 15 points and 5pts above the relegation zone.
In Division 1 incredibly all the top 5 teams in the Division won. League leaders TJ's D faced a tricky tie up in Ballyholland. The GAA club had topped the league back at the start of the season and are still a tough opponent for any side. The excellent Jason Lennon put the champions elect 1 up but Colm Shields drew the game level for Ballyholland with some good play.
TJ's pushed on to lead 3-1 thanks to the reliable Sean Rice and Davy Hanna. Robbie Rice won the game of the night dispatching a very good Matty Cartmill and that dragged Ballyholland right back into this match at 3-2.
Adrian Annett is having a cracking season and he made it 4-2 TJ's D before the brilliant Nicky Irwin fired in a brilliant 8 ball clearance. When Irwin gets in the groove he is unstoppable. He already had a break finish earlier in the season. Irwin sealed the 2 points to keep TJ's top but the inconsistent Niall O'Hare couldn't finish with a flourish as he lost out to Brendan Keenan to finish the scoring 5-3 to TJ's D.
Bears were involved in the game of the night in Division 1. Bears needed both points to stay in touch with TJ's D. Bears travelled across the town to Trainor's on Canal Street who have struggled this season.
Bears raced into a 2-0 lead when Garry Powell and Steady Eddie Heaney with wins over Tommy McCabe and Conor Quinn.
Trainor's fought back through Paul McParland when he had a very good win over Newry Democrat Sports Reporter Sean McKevitt. 2-1 soon became 3-1 thanks to Adrian 'Oz' Holman as he saw off William McShane. But the tide was starting to turn as Trainor's found their groove.
Alex Carlon was 1st to strike back for the hosts Trainors when he beat Seamus Keenan for 3-2. It was all square after 6 frames when Christopher Hughes had a good win over Paddy Caldwell. But as all true champions do - Bears responded when faced with adversity. Ralph Crummy made it 4-3 Bears when he beat a useful Dylan Devlin and it was the 'Baby Faced Assassin' who fired home the winning frame for Bears. Neill Heaney is having a memorable season and it was the sharp shooter himself that wrestled both points back up to the Windmill bar with a final score of 5-3.
In Division 2 Millvale were effectively knocked from the title race after losing 5-3 to the visiting Boyds. Millvale led 2-0 but Boyds won 5 of the next 6 to end Millvales faint title hopes.
Trainor's of Camlough had no such problems as they stretched their lead to 6pts.
Tommy Mooney as per usual gave Trainor's the lead. Denver Jenkins had an excellent win over Declan Finnegan but 1-1 was as good as it got for Moore's B. Marty Pollock, Mark Trainor, Marty McCone, Luke Phelan, Paddy McKeown and Collie Rafferty all notched up wins as Train hit cruise control. Trainor's are now only a few games away from being crowned Division 2 champions.
Check out the league tables and result cards online now. Dont Forget 22nd and 29th of March/ Cunningham Cup and Vegas Cup Being Played. 31st March Individuals being played.