A 22 – year wait came to an end on the big stage in the Lerwick Legion on Friday night when the Kirkwall and District Darts League side beat their Shetland counterparts 11-10 in a match which will no doubt be spoken about for years to come as an absolute classic, packed with drama and excitement.
Going into the annual fixture, being officially played for the 40th time, the Kirkwall side were the current holders of the cup, but it was back in 1990 that the KDDL side last won on Shetland soil.
The epic match came to an end around 1am in the packed venue which had an atmosphere to rival the Sky Sports Premier League of Darts.
Flashing lights, big tv screens and walk on music added to the highly charged atmosphere, and the players on both sides were certainly up for it.
At the request of the hosts, the evening started with a warm up match of the Shetland reserves John Robert Scott and Jim Wood playing Kirkwall's reserve Michael Bain and a somewhat surprised KDDL committee member Allan Brown, who had come up with the Orkney squad! Much to the delight of the home team it was Shetland who won this prematch opener.
Getting down to the main event, KDDL captain Craig Taylor and Shetland skipper Andy Glen had their team sheets entered into the computer so that the crowd who packed into the hall could be kept up to speed with the play.
The home team decided to play the 6 doubles first with a mouth-watering opening game between KDDL champs Derek Firth and Kevin Gray taking on Shetland champs George Smith and Paul Scarsbrook.
It was the Orkney pair that won 2-1 with Kevin hitting five scores of 100 or above. Kirkwall then went 2-0 up with Ivan Leslie and Robbie Stanger beating Neal Redfern and Brian Patterson 2-0 with Robbie hitting a maximum.
Shetland got their first point on the board when Angus Galbraith and Danny Irvine beat brothers Stevie and Ian Linklater 2-1. This was despite Kirkwall winning the first leg as Stevie hit a maximum. But the away team hit back with Brian and Bruce Moar getting the better of Andrew Simpson and Gordon Irvine 2-1.
Up next were Iain Wilkie and Roy Foubister against Shetland’s Gareth MacRitchie and George Mackay. The home pair won the first leg and it looked like they were going to lose the second until George hit a brilliant 136 checkout to win the game 2-0. Then home pairing of Barry Couper and Roger Irvine levelled the match beating Martin Peace and Michael Moodie 2-1.
So with the match all square at 3-3 it was set up nicely for the 12 singles matches. Shetland put star man Neal Redfern up front and he didn't let them down beating the KDDL raking points table topper Derek Firth 2-1, hitting a 180 in the deciding leg. Again the away team hit back immediately with Ivan Leslie overcoming Angus Galbraith 2-1, with Angus checking out 106 to win the first leg.
Then Brian Patterson making his county debut for Shetland played an excellent game to take the scalp of Kevin Gray 2-1. Gareth MacRitchie put the home team two games ahead for the first time playing well to beat Robbie Stanger 2-0.
The next match was probably the crucial turning point with Bruce Moar against George Smith. George won the first leg with a good 94 checkout then when he hit a 180 in the second leg it looked all over, but the double proved elusive and Bruce took the leg, before winning the decider in 16 darts.
Stevie Linklater then once again levelled the match with a good 2-1 over Paul Scarsbrook, winning the third leg in 15 darts including a 102 checkout. The Orkney boys were now on a bit of a roll with Brian Moar playing really well to beat Andrew Simpson 2-0 with the help of a good 113 checkout in the first leg. Things were starting to look bleak for Shetland as Ian Linklater won 2-0 against Danny Irvine.
With the KDDL boys having won four in a row, Shetland’s George Mackay had a lot of pressure on him but he rose to the challenge beating Iain Wilkie 2-0.
However, the Orcadians then went 9-7 ahead with Roy Foubister edging out Barry Couper 2-1.
Shetland won the last two singles with two 2-0 wins for Roger Irvine and debutant Gordon Irvine over KDDL’s Martin Peace and debutant Michael Moodie respectively.
So the destination of the cup was to be decided with the three 4 a sides (one leg 1001).
Kirkwall put up Derek Firth, Ivan Leslie, Kevin Gray and Robbie Stanger against George Smith, Paul Scarsbrook, Neal Redfern and Andrew Simpson. The boys in red got to the double first but after a couple of misses the home team had a chance to nick it, but didn't take it. Kevin hit the double to put Kirkwall 10-9 up.
The visitors were now one away from a historic victory, but Shetland had other ideas.
Shetland’s Neal Redfern, George Mackay, Gareth MacRitchie and Danny Irvine beat Bruce Moar, Stevie Linklater, Brian Moar and Ian Linklater, with Neal hitting tops.
With the crowd now at fever pitch, and well after midnight, it all came down to the last fours, Iain Wilkie, Roy Foubister, Martin Peace and Michael Moodie, against Shetland’s Roger Irvine, Barry Couper, Brian Patterson and Gordon Irvine.
Both teams came down pretty even, but it was Iain Wilkie who hit a brilliant 180 at the crucial time to give Kirkwall the advantage. With nerves really on edge the Orkney boys were struggling to finish off the leg.
Young Michael Moodie, who was making his début on the big stage, left Iain Wilkie a shot at double 7. Shetland’s Gordon Irvine had a chance to steal the glory but just missed tops for a 78 finish.
Iain stepped up to the plate to nail double 7 with his second dart to send his team into a state of delirium!
It was the first time in 22 years the Orkney team had won in Shetland.
All in all it was a great nights entertainment for the full house watching, with the walk on music really getting the crowd on their feet adding to the brilliant atmosphere.
The Kirkwall side were cheered on by the ladies team who had travelled to play their game the night before. Some of the members of the Orkney Badminton team, in Shetland for their inter-county, and also added their vocal support.
Kirkwall’s Brain Moar won the man of the match title awarded for the highest average on the night. He had 90.74 in the doubles, 80 in the singles, and 57.75 in the fours, with an overall average of 76.16.
KDDL captain Craig Taylor thanked all involved in the darts and for the hospitality shown to the team over the entire weekend, describing the win as a “proud moment” for all involved from Orkney.
He also thanked Williamson Butchers for sponsoring the team shirts and Ali Flett’s continued support of the KDDL.
On the Saturday afternoon the anniversary shield competitions were held in the Lerwick Legion. 52 men entered as well as 32 women.
The visitors were unlucky not to take the silverware home with them. Kevin Gray lost in the final of the men's competition to Barry Couper 4-2 and Kirkwall’s Katy Croy lost in the ladies final to Iris Anderson 3-2 in a very close match which saw Iris retain her title.
On Sunday, Kirkwall ladies player Catherine Symons, running in the London Marathon, wore a shirt congratulating the men's team on their victory!
A link to the players averages can be found here: http://www.shetlanddartsassociation.co.uk/Inter%20County%20averages%202012.pdf