Runners-up: Cumbria’s Liberty Trophy side after the inglorious final defeat
All eyes were on Nottingham on Saturday where Cumbria’s county side met Devon in the final of the national inter-county championship for the Liberty Trophy.
Devon are very strong on the outdoor scene but their indoor record is nowhere near as impressive, their best effort in this competition being a success 24 years ago when they defeated Norfolk.
Since then, they have appeared in the final twice but lost on both occasions, the most recent being in 2004 when they lost to Durham.
After successes in the 90s, Cumbria has not shown the same consistency in recent times but did win the trophy again in 2013 when beating Essex.
So it appeared that the stage was set for an intriguing contest.
I felt that a good start could be very important and Cumbria did just that, dominating across the green in the very early stages but that all changed very quickly.
Having held a double figure lead early, by the time the five end mark arrived, that lead had dropped to just 30-28 and that despite the fact that Stuart Irwin’s four were enjoying a great run, which saw them rack up 14 shots without reply by Devon skip Stuart Evans.
By 10 ends Kevin Harrison, Paul Wallace, John Baird and Irwin had extended their advantage to 19 shots but the team as a whole now trailed by 14 shots, the other five rinks all having gone behind.
Over the years, Cumbria has been noted for a tremendous fighting spirit and has come back from some almost impossible positions to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
On Saturday, there was no evidence of that spirit, by 15 ends the gap had widened to 23 shots and, at the end, it was 32 shots.
I could not say that I was surprised by the defeat for I thought that it would be close but I was surprised by the way the Cumbria side folded so tamely and by the poor form which so many of its players showed on the day.
Devon were not great, had they been so, then the margin could have been even more embarrassing.
Stuart Airey was rather unfortunate to lose his game against Sam Tolchard, the loss of a three on the last end saw him go down 18-17, but this was a good game and he had some fair support, stand in lead Neil Shearer doing particularly well against an in form lead Kieran Kniveton.
Ian Gallagher’s four operated on only three cylinders and, after leading 5-3 at five ends, they could manage only four more shots over 13 ends when going down 22-9 against Ryan Whitlock.
Gavin Taylor’s four never looked like winning and the loss of a six on the last end really rubbed it in and saw them go down 21-7 to Louis Ridout.
Stephen Farish was 16-4 down after ten ends and never really threatened to get near Danny Dennison who eventually ran out a 25-14 winner.
Ben Sherwen was always about four shots adrift of Ian Bond but again never looked like winning and the loss of three singles on the last three ends saw him go down 18-10.
The only rink which came out of the game with real credit was Stuart Irwin’s who led early and remained on top throughout before getting home by 15 shots.
The final overall score showed a 32-shot win for Devon and, without the Irwin four’s contribution, it would have been a very bad day indeed.
This was a poor showing by Cumbria.
In a 24-man team, there will always be a small number of players who do not produce their best on the day, but on Saturday, there was just a small number who did produce their best.
Looking back over the last few months, I perhaps should not be too surprised.
Cumbria had only one main national qualifier this year and that was in the fours where three Liberty skips, Ian Gallagher, Gavin Taylor and Stephen Farish teamed up with Paul Barlow but after a comfortable first round win at Melton, they were well beaten in the second round.
Similarly in the club’s domestic championships, there were few of the Liberty side in action in the finals, only John Baird Stuart Airey, John Wills, Jack Walker and Rick Gallagher appeared in club finals.
On Saturday, at Nottingham, only Airey in particular and Baird showed their form.
So, as we now look forward to the Denny Cup final stages at Bristol this coming Saturday, there are questions to be asked. Having lost to Devon can the team recover when meeting Exonia in the semi-final.
The answer despite the Nottingham débâcle is a definite yes but only if the Cumbria Indoor Bowls Club side shows something like its true form and a greater desire to win.
Exonia will be represented by eight of their Liberty side but of the six Liberty skips only one, Ian Bond, will appear at Bristol.
I feel sure that the Cumbria side will be much better, surely there can be no repeat, and I have high hopes of reaching the final. In that final, the opposition will be provided by either Kingsthorpe or Folkstone. If they win it will be a first-ever final appearance for Folkstone while Kingsthorpe have been to the final only once in the 77 years it has been played.
Oddly enough on the only occasion they reached the final they won the Denny Cup and the beaten finalists in that year, 2003, was...Cumbria.
I will be delighted to see Cumbria reach the final again and hope that the team can put last Saturday’s efforts firmly behind them.
It has not been a great end to the indoor season with little joy at the national finals for Cumbria players. John Crozier was hoping for a third success in the Senior Singles and set off well with a 21-18 win over Colin Mason of Bounds Green to reach the last eight.
He looked well on the way to gaining a place in the semi-final but almost unbelievably lost two full houses to go out 21-16 to Steve Jeapes of Falaise.
Eleanor Gass carried the hopes of Cumbria in the Senior Ladies Singles but failed to get beyond the first hurdle losing out to Rita Hodgkinson of North Cave 21-10.
Finally the Mason Trophy was won by York who defeated Cumbria earlier in the competition.
Cumbria IBC v Exonia IBC Saturday - Denny Cup semi-final at Bristol 10.00am: G Vipond, S Green, B Sherwen, S Airey; K Harrison, P Wallace, J Baird, S Farish; P Barlow, J Wills, M Nanson, I Gallagher; E Murray, S Irwin, G Taylor, M Rice