Junior curlers were in action this weekend, at Ayr, in the premier junior club event of the season, the Junior Challenge. In this event each young curlers' club fields two teams. At least two of the players must be female, and one of these must throw skip, or third, stones.
Galleon, Ayr, Kinross, Aberdeen, Stirling, Dumfries, Lockerbie, Stranraer, Braehead, Greenacres and Forfar all had the regulation two teams for the event. Hamilton fielded two sets of two, and Gogar three sets. Play was in four sections with semifinals and finals on Sunday.
It was a testament to the strength of the Hamilton Young Curlers club that both their teams finished top of their sections, and had to meet each other in the semifinals. It was Hamilton 2 which got through, the teams skipped by Kyle Waddell and Andrew Ballantyne.
Stranraer and Stirling topped the other sections, and Stirling prevailed in the semi, just by one end over the two games. This set up a Hamilton v Stirling final. What a dramatic finish there was to be!
Kyle Waddell, Greg Allan, Craig Waddell and Jamie Allan were off the ice first, having beaten their Stirling opposition 10-2. The linescores are here. Not that the scoreline mattered. What was important first and foremost was the number of ends won. The Waddell side had five ends in the bag.
Their opposition, Derrick Sloan, Daryl Russell, Christopher Burt and Craig Hamilton had won two ends.
James Dunn, Louise Mansion, Andrew McAughtrie and Katie Murray had the measure of the other Hamilton team and led their opposition five ends to two, playing the eighth and final end. The big prize, a trip to Sweden, was resting on which team would win the last end.
Andrew Ballantyne, Sarah Wood, Laura Ritchie and Scott Gibson held last stone advantage. There were two Stirling stones behind a front guard, lyng both just behind the tee. Andrew had a draw to the backing for the win. Halfway down, it looked good. The sweepers were called off, the stone picked up and swung away. Curling can be such a cruel game!
And here are the two Lanarkshire teams. Back L-R: Kyle Waddell, Greg Allan, Craig Waddell, Jamie Allan. Front: Andrew Ballantyne, Sarah Wood, Laura Ritchie and Scott Gibson.
And here's the on-ice pic of the winners. Back L-R: James Dunn, Louise Mansion, Andrew McAughtrie and Katie Murray. Front: Derrick Sloan, Daryl Russell, Christopher Burt and Craig Hamilton. That's them with the trophy, whch was presented by Royal Club President Bill Marshall, in the photo at the top of the post.
I was surprised to find that in the long history of the junior inter club competition (it goes back to the mid 80s), this is the very first time that Stirling has won. They have been runners-up at least four times!
This season’s competition also decided how the event would be played in the future - there will be three divisions. Division 1 and Division 2 will both consist of six sets of two teams in each, and Division 3 will have the rest.
The four teams which topped the sections this weekend are through to Division 1 next time. The four clubs which finished second in their sections played off, the winners going to Division 1, the losers joining the four third placed section teams in Division 2. Galleon were clear winners over Kinross. The Dumfries - Forfar tie came down to an deciding end, Forfar stealing the eighth to go up.
It was all great to see, and a delight to watch such good curling. Junior club curling is still alive and prospering.