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YORKSHIRE BID FOR HAT-TRICK
OF COUNTY TITLES

 

Yorkshire will field five members of their triumphant 1998 squad when they seek a hat-trick of English County titles at Seaton Carew, CO Durham on 1-3 October. Simon Dyson, Ben Mason, John Wells, Richard Finch and Aran Wainwright helped the White Rose County to an overwhelming success at Stoneham a year ago and will start firm favourites against Derbyshire, Gloucestershire and Sussex.

This will be Yorkshire's 29th final appearance since the competition started in 1926 and they have been winners 14 times. Each of the four teams can call on a wealth of experience but Yorkshire, once again under the shrewd captaincy of Cec Bloice, field a powerful lineup including four current internationals. Dyson, Mason, Wells and Wainwright will arrive at Seaton Carew having represented England in the Home Internationals, while Richard Finch played in last year's Finals, winning five of his matches.

The remaining two members of the side are Stephen East, runner-up in the British Mid-Amateur and who retained the Logan Trophy, both in August and Graeme Clark, the reigning Yorkshire county champion.

Yorkshire won through to the finals by a record 23-shot margin over their northern rivals at Formby and having already secured the Northern League title by winning all five of their matches, victory at Seaton Carew would complete another hat-trick.

Derbyshire will e making their third Final appearance and their first for 48 years. They finished third in 1947 at Ganton then joint third at Formby in 1951. they came through the Midland qualifier at Rothley Park, Leicester, finishing seven strokes ahead of the host county and will again field a side showing a blend of youth and experience. Mark Rawson won the individual award at Rothley Park, equaling the course record with 657 in his second round and is joined by his Chevin club mates Paul Gration and Gary Shaw.

But the backbone of the Derby side lies with Jimmy Feeney, a veteran of over 100 county matches and the current county strokeplay and matchplay champion, Stuart Davis and Nigel Furniss. Completing their lineup is Sam Humpston, who was runner-up to Feeney in the match play, but the side will miss Gareth White who is at college in America.

County captain, Colin Axon, is all too aware that his side are the underdogs. "You have to say that we are one of the smaller counties and we have done well to reach the Finals for the first time in almost half a century. But we won't be overawed and we can look at four Midland league titles in the past 10 years."

When it comes to the English Finals, Gloucestershire can be counted regulars. This will be their 19th appearance in the finals, they have won the title twice, in 1970 at Moor Park and 1979 at Formby and have been runner-up six times. Their first final was 69 years ago at Burnham and Berrow while their other appearances have all been since 1965, the last in 1994.

They won the South West Qualifier at High Post by four strokes from Dorset and will field the same line up plus the experienced David Powell. Mark Sanders, the 1998 English Champion and international, is joined by Ed Butler, twice the Gloucestershire Order of Merit winner, David Hares, David Wood and Doug Young.

Sussex will be making only their second Final appearance, the first being two years ago at Ferndown when they finished runners-up to Yorkshire. Once again, their captain is Bernard Yates who hopes to end his highly successful three-year reign by lifting the trophy. His side includes four survivors from 1997, Steven Graham, Martin Galway, Matthew Allen and Ryan Fenwick. But they will miss the services of Joe Doherty, who broke his left wrist in a fall recently and Max Haris who is at college in the United States.

The finals are contested on a round robin basis, each match consisting of three foursomes and six singles. In the first series on Friday 1 October, Derbyshire will play Yorkshire, while Gloucestershire face Sussex.