Neil Speirs produced a series of master-class performances to capture the WLBA Champion of Champions title at Linlithgow over the weekend and the 36 year old Kirkliston star was etching his name on The Burnside Cup for a second time.
Speirs conjured up five mega –magic displays that earned him a special acclaim from a decent sized banking that were enthralled and at times hypnotized by his exciting range of expert skills. Kirkliston’s gold medal hero of the 2014 Commonwealth Games was indeed the supreme artist in a 30 strong field of West Lothian club champions and brushed off challenges from Gareth Simpson (Middleton Hall), David Rodgers (Harrysmuir), Martin Byrne (Linlithgow), Alan Baird (Seafield), and Bryan Cooper of Bathgate. “It has taken me eights year to capture the championship title at Kirkliston and whether you call it pressure or incentive I knew that the traditions of the club demanded a serious challenge be made to capture this most coveted of titles”.
“ I am therefore thrilled to bits at joining Eric Logan, John Aitken (twice), and Grant Logan (twice) as a Kirkliston Champion of Champions however I am no stranger to the winners rostrum having won it for Uphall Station in 2006”. Speirs launched his campaign with a commanding 21-13 win over Gareth Simpson then caused an early round sensation as he crushed the highly rated David Rodgers, 21-2, to set up a quarterfinal clash against host club champion Martin Byrne.
Byrne put up a bold show to lead 8-2 and was very much in touch at 13-14 but Speirs powered to a 21-14 win with counts of 3, (1), 2, 2. Speirs followed up with a spectacular display in the semi finals to blitz Alan Baird, 21-2 in 12-ends, and set up a head to head with Bryan Cooper in the final.
The final was all over in a quick 14-ends yet it was a classic encounter with Cooper serving up some good stuff but overshadowed by the fantastic form of Speirs who kept the watching banking spellbound with a brilliant display to win 21-7. A snapshot of the Speirs magic turns the focus on end 11 where Cooper lay two shots hugging the jack but both were killed by a superb inch perfect facer for a single to 19-7 then end 12 saw Cooper trail the jack through the head for a solid hold of two shots.
But Speirs served up a fantastic yard on split to finish on top of the jack for a single to 20-7 and the crowd felt privileged to be witnessing a legend on top of his game and playing with strong focus and discipline. Cooper may have come into the final partially leg and mind weary as his semi final clash with Peter Lynch of Whitburn had been a 30-end marathon that went right down to the wire and decided by a wonder last bowl delivery that resulted in a two shot conversion for a 21-20 victory. “I was holding a very secure shot for victory and thought I was about to feature in my third champion of champions final but Bryan’s last bowl came from another planet and my dreams were shattered”, reflected the 2001 and 2006 runner up. Lynch had defeated 2014 finalist David Thomson of Blackburn, 21-17 in the second round while Cooper at the same stage edged a 21-18 battle with Scott Morier of Ratho.
The quarterfinal scores were, N Speirs 21 M Byrne 14; A Baird 21 Graham Turnbull (Springgrove) 5; B Cooper 21 Greg Baldry (Newbridge) 14; P Lynch 21 David Lamb (Uphall Station) 11.