Gary MUIR travelled the road to the Scottish Championships finals at Ayr Northfield in 2010 and the 26-year-old Hillside star is set to return to the national arena to parade his skills as the Edinburgh District 11 challenger in the Singles.
Muir – who reached the final of the Junior Singles on his last visit to the Finals – has stepped up in grade at the expense of Andrew Caldwell, whose impressive CV includes national title succession the Triples (2011) and Junior Singles in 2005.
Caldwell just edged Muir in Friday night’s District 11 finals but the 26-year-old failed to shine on his home green at Craigentinny and lost 21-15 in 19 ends to Muir.
Muir introduced a longer length of jack when carding a count of 3 to lead 8-5 and his immediate reward was an extended run of 1, 2, 2, 1, 3, 3 to have Caldwell at his 20-5 mercy in front of a big crowd that had turned up on a dreich night.
Caldwell arrested his alarming slide with a 2 to 7 then introduced a short mat tactic to battle back to 15 with counts of 2, 2, 2, 2.
Muir found himself subjected to increasing pressure with Caldwell building the better head at the next end but the skip’s instinct of the Hillside challenger saw him clinch victory with a spectacular jack to the ditch strike.
“It was a great win for me as opponents don’t come much tougher than Andrew and I am now looking forward to Ayr and hopefully giving Hillside and Edinburgh something to shout about,” said Muir.
Josh Spalding was probably a bigger favourite than Caldwell to deliver a home victory so it ranks as a major shock that the massively talented 17-year-old failed in his bid to win the Districts junior singles title for a second time.
Spalding went all the way to the national final last year but was denied a return to Ayr by 24-year-old Nicky Brown of Leith, who continued his good run of form to score a 21-17 victory in 27 ends.
Spalding made a terrific start to lead 10-3 and although the expected procession to 21 failed to materialise he still held the driving seat at 15-12. However, Brown reversed the trend with an exciting 2, 3, 1, 1, 1 acceleration to 20.
“It’s a real feather in my cap to beat Josh and it is a confidence booster as it means I go to Ayr with a first class scalp under my belt,” said Brown.
Pilrig celebrated a double success with wins in the Pairs and Triples, claiming Tanfield and Summerside as their respective victims.
Darren McKenny skipped Chris Steven to a 21-7 win over Stuart McKean and Robert White having included runs of 4, 2, 1 and 3, 4, 1 to gain command at 19-4.
Scott Noble and his front-end of Graeme Hislop and Keith Mitchell answered early pressure at 0-5 with a 1, 3, 1, 5, 2, 1 response to cross 13-5 then they finished good 18-6 winners over Grant Abercrombie, Mark Wilson and Keith Taylor.
Blackhall added to the drama in the Fours with their rink of Grant Walker, Jim Melles, George Kirk and Brian Lockhart turning in an exciting performance to upset the odds against Alex Thompson, Bill McLachlan, Derek McLean and Graeme McIntosh of Tanfield.
The major highlight came with Blackhall getting off the mark with a sensational full house count of 8 at the third end with Lockhart brilliantly pushing an opposition bowl out of the head.
“It’s the first time I have seen an 8 scored in my many years as district secretary,” said organiser Stuart McFarlane. Blackhall went on to win 21-17.
Maitland denied Pilrig a hat-trick with Ken Proudfoot, Ian Cairns, Harry McLachlin and Ian Watson zipping from 3-4 to 18-4 in the Seniors Fours then defeating Bob Inglis (skip), 20-9.