Bannsiders rewrite the history books

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Coleraine put on a scintillating display as they clinched the Irish Bowling Association Senior Cup after a 13-shot victory against a highly fancied Ballymoney side on Saturday afternoon at a clement Belmont Bowling Club.

The Bannsiders were going into the game in good form having won their last three league games, not to mention their excellent 20-shot victory over Bangor in the semi-final at Ballymena Bowling Club a fortnight ago. The Lodge Road men would also be looking for revenge, having suffered defeat to Ballymoney at the semi-final stage last year. However, they knew it would be a tough task as it was the third final appearance in four years for the Co. Antrim side and they had already disposed of Kenilworth, Forth River, Portrush, Dunbarton and Ballymena in previous rounds so the Coleraine men were in no doubt about the calibre of their opponents.

It was a barn-storming start to the game by the Coleraine side as they opened up a substantial 15-shot lead after five ends of play. The Lodge Road men showed no mercy in their relentless charge as they moved 27 shots clear just after the halfway stage of the game with some excellent bowls being played. This wee corner of East Belfast was filled with chants and cheers from the raucous travelling support from Coleraine as the noise levels went through the roof. However, the Ballymoney men kept pegging away and reduced the deficit to six shots with five ends remaining before taking a one shot lead with four ends to play. The Bannsiders dug deep and showed a steely resolve and determination to make sure they didn’t throw the cup away as they regained a two shot lead in the very next end. It was in the 19th end when Coleraine crushed their opponent’s fightback, as the Davison rink lifted a three, Calvin eked out a single, Ross picked up a two and Dallas claimed a five to seal a 14-shot advantage. On the 21st end, Ross lost two shots, Dallas claimed one and Calvin claimed one to leave the Lodge Road men 13 shots ahead, sparking widespread pandemonium amongst the Coleraine players and spectators alike. Belmont green was invaded by the noisy Bannsiders’ support as the players embraced each other on the green to end 92 years of hurt.

Ally Davison led his rink of Paul O’Neill, David Gaile and Alan Irwin to a superb 14-shot win over Gary Kelly’s foursome. It was nip and tuck early on in the game as Kelly held a slender one shot lead after five ends of play before Davison and his men moved out in front at the halfway stage, leading 13-6. Ally’s rink were playing some excellent bowls with the front end laying the foundations and the back end converting them as they extended their advantage to nine shots with a handful of ends remaining. The Coleraine rink piled on the pressure, playing big bowls as they claimed a 30-16 victory, laying a solid foundation for the rest of the team. The rink of Hugh McCallum, Jim Duncan, Stephen Brewster and Jonathan Calvin had a hard fought victory against Alistair Steele’s four. Calvin’s men opened up an early seven shot lead before extending their advantage to 12-3 after six ends of play as the Coleraine rink began to hit top gear. Steele’s quartet soon fought back and reduced the arrears to three shots at the halfway stage before they took a two shot lead with five ends to go. Calvin and his rink kept at it and won three of the remaining four ends to clinch a 20-18 victory.

On rink three, Ian Ross’ quartet claimed a very good victory against Willie McCaw. The Coleraine men opened up an early five shot lead before a count of five on the eighth end had them 10 shots to the good against their rivals. Mark Mason, Joe McCarry, David Reilly and Ian continued to play big bowls with the front end laying heads for the back end to convert, whilst Ross played a number of big bowls at the right time as they took a 22-9 lead after 13 ends of play. McCaw’s rink reduced the deficit to seven shots with five ends to go before the Coleraine rink dug in and held on to seal a vital 26-23 win.

Over on rink four, Victor Dallas’ men had a tough battle with Brian McAlary, eventually slipping to a six shot defeat. Jordan Dallas, Jimmy O’Neill, Basil Kennedy and Victor took an early three shot lead after five ends of play before falling one shot behind at the halfway stage. Dallas’ men struggled for a few ends and they found themselves 14 shots behind with four ends remaining as they stared down the barrel of their first rink loss in this Irish Cup campaign. Victor and his men regrouped and showed true grit and the Coleraine fighting spirit as they claimed two singles before a superb count of five on the 20th end brought them back into the game, but more importantly it gave the team a big lift.

The Lodge Road quartet claimed a single on the last end as Jordan took off down the green to jump on his father Victor to celebrate an emotional day.

It was a highly polished performance from the Coleraine side as they started out in sensational fashion, taking a 27-shot lead at the halfway stage. The Bannsiders showed a tremendous amount of courage and their famous fighting spirit as they fought off a late Ballymoney charge to get back into the contest before sealing an immortal 13-shot victory.

The Lodge Road men have sealed their place in history by claiming the club’s second IBA Senior Cup crown and the first since that victory over Ballymena in 1921. Saturday 24th August at Belmont will live long in the memory for all involved as the spectators and players alike.