Whitecross stunned Premier Division league Champions CWC A to win the Divisional Cup Final. Prior to this game pool pundits said there was more chance of Shergar winning the 2020 Grand National than Whitecross had of beating CWC to the chequered flag.
The 2018 quadruple winners CWC finished the league campaign a staggering 15 points clear of their South Armagh counterparts.
CWC won twice as many league games as 'The Cross'. 18 wins to 9. CWC lost just 1 single match - To Bears. Whitecross lost 7 of their 21 league games.
CWC's frame difference was +64 while Whitecross were in the negative at -6.
Those were damning facts but the league doesn't tell the whole story.
Whitecross thrashed Premier Division runner's-up and long time leaders Trainor's A 8-1 in this cup in the 1st round. Trainor's were hot favourite's after thrashing Whitecross only a few weeks earlier. Bears fancied their chances of upsetting Whitecross in the semi-final despite being in a relegation battle. Whitecross cruised into the final at 5-0 and finishing 6-2. The Divisional Cup sponsor's Trainor's Bar was proving a happy hunting ground for Whitecross.
CWC beat Nan's Rams 6-3 and convincingly beat Orchard 7-2 in their semi-final to set up this final.
The team news was also favourable to Whitecross as the legendary CWC A captain Pat Brady was going to miss the match due to being on holidays. Kieran McMahon was also a doubt before the game due to an Infected big toe. Whitecross reported a clean bill of health with a full squad for captain Shane Phelan to choose from.
Whitecross knew only too well they needed a good start if they were to stand any chance of giving CWC a run for their money.
Shane Phelan could have opted for Pairs runner-up duo Michael Feenan and Mickey O'Hanlon but Gavin Malone was given the nod after their heroics in earlier cup matches. Malone providing the tactics and Feenan the potting. They would face two time Pair's champion Harvey Lavelle who picked Bernie Magee as his partner. The Whitecross Pair play with confidence and a shortage of that fear factor with a touch of class put the South Armagh lads 1-0 up.
Shane Phelan is a 2018 Pairs champion and his chosen Partner was 2019 Pairs runner-up Mickey O'Hanlon. Bags of experience there, taking on 2 times and current individuals champion Paddy Clarke with the tactical Seamus McGeoghegan. Clarke and McGeoghegan were too good they levelled the match 1-1.
Cathal Phelan and Brian O'Neill had the unenviable task of beating this year's Pairs champions Terry McNally and Kieran McMahon. Phelan had a dreadful start to the season but has improved immeasurably at the turn of the year. Brian O'Neill has been like a new signing for Whitecross this year but surely beating the Doubles champions would be beyond their wildest dreams. Sometimes dreams do come true and incredibly the Pairs champions got humbled by Phelan and O'Neill and Whitecross came out the Pairs leading 2-1.
This was the season Michael Feenan finally showed the pool world what he is capable of. The Tornado left a trail of destruction especially in the 1st half of the season and reaching the final of the Pairs should be just the start for him. Feenan came up against an inspired Kieran McMahon though, who showed the young gun how to clear up in style to level the scores at 2-2.
Cathal Phelan v Paddy Clarke was the match-up of the night. Both are clearly their teams best player. The former team mates ooze quality but the current back to back individuals champion Clarke was the obvious favourite to put CWC into the lead for the 1st time. It was the frame that arguably put that seed of doubt in the CWC minds as the brilliant Phelan kept his cool to fire Whitecross 3-2 in front.
Alan Burke was in trouble against Raymie McKenna. Burke has had a good solid season and is a big game player. It was looking like McKenna had the frame in the bag but when he potted the black the white inexplicably rolled into the pocket and Burke had stolen the frame for 4-2 Whitecross.
Whitecross captain Shane Phelan had the chance to make history and win these boys their 1st ever Newry Pool league top flight trophy. A few seasons ago Whitecross lost two finals in a month and the following season lost another final. The country lads are used to being the bridesmaid but never the bride. Could Phelan go down in folklore and secure the Premier Division Cup? The legendary Harvey Lavelle stood in his way. Lavelle has it all. Potting, safety, tactics, positional play and bottle by the bucket load are just some of his attributes. Phelan has been a key player for Whitecross this past couple of seasons capping it off with the 2018 Pairs title. He also won our blog player of the season last year. He was in a tense battle with Lavelle. Phelan saw his chance and rolled home the final few colours to leave a pressure black to the middle for the title. Years and years of untold hurt of Whitecross players rested firmly on his shoulders. Could Phelan handle the pressure?
You bet he could! Shane Phelan stroked home the black with aplomb to the ecstatic delight of his Whitecross team mates.
It was a fantastic win for Whitecross. So many times they have been to the well but came home dry. Now, at long last they can look forward to a team photo with a trophy in their grasp.
Gareth McCann missed out on his game with Terry McNally and a possible showdown between Joseph McTaggart and Seamus McGeoghegan was averted thanks to Shane Phelan.
Congratulations to Whitecross and hard luck CWC A.😂