Saturday - Semi Finals
BA v SHREWSBURY
Although the BA team was a few players short, they were certainly not lacking in talent or commitment.
Captained by Barry Gage they took on group C winners Shrewsbury in the first Semi-Final. It's never easy going on first and this showed with No.5 string Gage losing 3-0 on a court that wasn't as lively as he was used to. The BA team felt Barry needed one more game to get going but his younger and fitter opponent didn't give him the chance, a smiling Shrewsbury took the first rubber.
Next on court was BA No.4 Mick Houlihan. Back on form and moving better than he had been earlier in the season. Mick took a 2-0 lead which dimmed the Shrewsbury grins. It was never going to be easy and losing the third, the BA team encouraged Mick to play his own game and try to get us back on a even keel. Houlihan did just that, steadied the ship and took his opponent out 3-1.
Next up was No.3 Clive Johnson, looking relaxed and raring to go. Clearly fitter than his opponent he also took a 2-0 lead but the Shrewsbury player was still hungry and again, nicked the third. Into the fourth Johnson continued to work his opponent and with minimal errors turned it into a comfortable 3-1 victory.
Match score BA 2-1 SHREWSBURY. The BA team were saying 'just one more win' and they would make the final. Shrewsbury were now witnessing the depth of this BA team.
Now on two courts BA's No.1 Mo Khalid and No.2 Nev Appleton were warming up.
From the outset Mo was in control in what looked like an exhibition match to the onlookers. The finish line was getting closer and closer however a dip in concentration saw Khalid lose the third game for a 2-1 lead.
Meanwhile on the other court Nev had also gone 2-0 ahead against an opponent with good racket skills but clumsy movement which he hoped to capitalise on. Not so soon, Nev lost the third, a familiar pattern in this match but could he forget the occasion and hold onto a victory.
Reports from the other court, Mo had closed it out 3-1, BA were through to the Final for the first time and news filtering through to Appleton on the other court saw him relax and also close the game out 3-1, adding to a convincing 4-1 BA victory.
Well done lads.
Sunday - Final
BA vs DUNNINGTON
Today was a much warmer day and the final wasn't until 3pm so time for most of the team to relax. Barry had gone back to London, to then return for the final, so 10 hours on the road wasn't going to be good for anyone.
BA were looking for a better start than the day before and today wasn't going to be easy. At No.5 Barry looked relaxed and was clearly in a better mindset than the day before, the team geeing him up for that first crucial match. It seemed to work, and from the outset Gage found his length AND height. His opponent needed a ladder for the countless crosscourt lobs that were drifted past him and it looked like we could get the early lead we needed. Storming into a 2-0 lead BA were starting to feel confident and hoping that the energy-drink-filled captain wasn't going to take his foot off the gas. A hearty opponent didn't want to roll over, Barry now being told to dig deep as the third went to a tie-break and both tiring. With the lobs still dropping like bombs and his opponent getting frustrated he scraped it 19-17 for a 3-0 win - Well done Barry!
Up next was Mick at No.4. We were now going to see how much depth their team had, which was evident as his opponent warmed up. In the first, the Dunnington No.4 took everything early and Mick knew it wasn't going to be easy after losing a close first game. The team urged Mick to play his own game and slow things down which from the outset was noticeable, the second, although close saw Houlihan work his opponent and start to get into a groove. At 1-1 you could see his seemingly fitter opponent start to tire and from there on Mick took control to close out the game 3-1 - An important win.
BA 2-0 up were nearly there but Dunnington weren't going to just roll over after seeing off Pontefract in their group stages.
Next on at No.1 was Mo and No.3 was Clive, both totally capable of sealing the deal for BA.
Mo's opponent, about 2 feet taller looked like he could at least ruffle a few feathers but losing the first to Mo 1-11 he was made to look very basic.
On the other court Clive's match got underway, looking as sharp as the day before and with more
determination for the last throw he headed into a 2-0 lead.
Into the second game of the No.1's Khalid seem to have more time on the ball than was physically possible, his opponent looked like a statue in Covent Garden waiting for the ball to be hit. Mo took the second and third game both 12-10 after perhaps relaxing a little too much however a convincing 3-0 victory sealed the match win for BA to become National O35 club champions for the first time.
Following on from Mo was Nev at No.2, now feeling relaxed which was evident from the first two games just dropping 5 points he was slotting it away. A drop in concentration saw him lose the third whilst Clive had done similar in his match however charged on to win 3-1 - Another good win.
Into the fourth game for Appleton, now the only BA player left on court, looked more relaxed yet still wanted add to the overall BA victory, which he did, closing the game out 3-1 to give BA a clean sheet.
An emphatic win by British Airways which will surely send a message to the other clubs.
Lets not forget Mike McLaughlin who was missed through to injury but without his contribution BA would not have made the finals. Mike Gregory was also unavailable for the finals but secured a win in the group stage.
1. Mark Hildred 0-3 Mo Khalid (1-11 10-12 10-12)
2. Jon Hand 1-3 Nevil Appleton (4-11 3-11 11-7 9-11)
3. Ady Proctor 1-3 Clive Johnson (8-11 11-4 1-11 8-11)
4. Dave Stones 1-3 Mick Houlihan (11-8 5-11 6-11 8-11)
5. Stuart Dunlop 0-3 Barry Gage (3-11 6-11 17-19)