Men's nerves of steel...
Yorkshire’s men certainly put their new Captain David Appleyard through the wringer before finally delivering the County Championship title after a torrid final day at Southport & Ainsdale. Yorkshire were in control of their own destiny after beating first Kent and then Lincolnshire in a format of three morning foursomes, then six singles matches. However all three, plus last day opponents Gloucestershire, were still in the running to win. Just as in qualifying at the Northern Counties championship in the Isle of Man, Yorkshire were strong down the stretch winning enough game points to prevail, as they finished with a 2-1 match record and 14.5 game points. Gloucestershire couldn’t overhaul the White Rose men in the final afternoon singles and ended with a 2-1 record on 12.5 game points, two behind. Kent and Lincolnshire ended with 1-2 records, but also had 14.5 and 12.5 game points respectively, a measure of how tight every contest was. The last time Yorkshire lifted the title in 2018, they also edged out Gloucestershire in an even tighter tussle – they tied the final game 4.5-4.5, winning by just a half game point. In torrential Saturday afternoon rain, despite a 2.5-0.5 foursomes lead at lunch against Lincolnshire, the first three singles were lost. Cue Romanby’s Ben Brown, George Ash (Hallowes) and Jake Sowden (The Oaks) to bring in convincing wins, none of them needing to go down the 18th. It meant Yorkshire had won both matches 5.5–3.5 and despite losing their final match by the same margin, Lincolnshire’s 5-4 defeat of Kent left Appleyard’s men as champions. Yorkshire’s top performers were Ilkley’s Max Berrisford and Sowden in foursomes, winning two of their three contests. In singles Ash had two wins and a half, while Lindrick’s Tom Osborne, Rotherham’s Lucas Martin and Sowden all won two of their three games.
Yorkshire Captain David Appleyard reflected on winning ‘the treble’ in his first year, saying: “It couldn’t have gone any better. We’ve done everything we set out when I took over, from the first coaching session with Gareth [Davies] and Robbo [Steve Robinson], to qualify from the regional finals at the Isle of Man and then win the County Championship. “Winning the league also boosted us. There was a lot of pressure there because Darryl [Berry] had done such a fantastic job over the last 10 years, winning it the last seven years in succession, so to continue that for an 8th successive year was massive. “The aim was to win at the Isle of Man because we hadn’t been to the county finals for five years.” His men didn’t exactly make it a stress-free first year in charge.
Playing at the IOM’s Mount Murray club Yorkshire left it incredibly late before finishing strongly to edge out Cheshire by just two strokes – a cumulative 847 to 849. Appleyard thanked and praised the entire Yorkshire executive but especially chair of selectors Kevin Tucker for his constant support and advice, plus coaches Davies and Robinson. At times Appleyard gave Abbeydale’s Davies the official armband allowing him to advise the players on course. Although Yorkshire had England pair Dylan Shaw-Radford and Josh Berry available, they stood by the players who got them to the finals. Only Rotherham’s Jack Whaley, now at college in the USA, was absent, replaced by England Amateur champion Ben Brown. Appleyard said: “Sunday morning, when we lost the foursomes 2.5 to .5 against Gloucestershire, that was tough. We got the lads together and said ‘we’ve got to go out this afternoon and win four singles’ . “That was the message. We didn’t quite get there, but the result in the other match [Kent-Lincolnshire] helped. Once we knew that, we knew how many points we needed to get us over the line, and we managed that.” Things looked dire when the first two singles were lost, but then Ash, Osborne and Martin ran off three wins to seal overall victory. “Everyone was standout, as simple as that. Charlie led by example, Tom was as solid as ever, Ben, George Ash, Jake, Max, Lucas ... they all contributed and as a team, as a squad, we couldn’t ask for a better bunch of lads. “Everyone accepted the decision that we made when we left people out and they either went out and caddied, or helped me ... every sin- gle one of them. They all knew someone had to drop out when you have seven exceptional players for six spots. That was the hardest part. “We just made an honest decision to be loyal to the lads who went to the Isle of Man. We trusted them to get the result there, which they did. They got us there, they were all in form, all competing and we all agreed we had to be loyal to them.” Reflecting on whether the year had been enjoyable or stressful, he added: “Both really, it’s been tense at times, there’s an ebb and a flow to your day. We have such a massive pool of players to choose from, that’s the hardest part, selecting 12 players [for league matches] because every single one of them can come into the team and win. And that’s a great thing to have, that strength in depth.” As for next year? “We’ve already been planning our coaching sessions, so I hope that winning the treble will have earned me another go!”