Kelly and McClure strike Gold at Alantic Bowls Championships

Ian McClure and Gary Kelly.

Ian McClure and Gary Kelly.

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Ian McClure admits his gold medal pairs success at the recent Atlantic Bowls Championships in Cyprus is a career highlight.

The Portrush player teamed up with Ballymoney man Gary Kelly to defeat the current world indoor and outdoor title holders Alex Marshall and Paul Foster 18-12 in an epic final.

The team returned from the Atlantic Championships with another impressive medal haul.

Gary Kelly went one better than his silver performance in the event four years ago by lifting a gold medal in the pairs, along with McClure.

But the Provincial boys were still not finished. Kelly gobbled up a bronze medal in the singles, while McClure was part of the Irish rink that won bronze in the fours, which included Aaron Tennent, Neil Mulholland and Marty McHugh.

Kelly, McClure and Mulholland have since left the Athena Beech sunshine behind them and will now focus on enhancing their indoor achievements.

“We are absolutely thrilled,” said McClure.

“We won silver in the pairs four years ago in Cyprus, so to come back and win gold this time is really special.

“The Atlantic event is ranked up there with the Commonwealth Games and World Championships, which just shows the significance of the victory - and to beat Alex and Paul in the final was really the topping on the cake.”

The victory also guarantees McClure and Kelly involvement in next season’s World Championships in New Zealand.

“You couldn’t make it up,” quipped Kelly.

“We have a fabulous time over the last fortnight in the Atlantic Championships. The team did fantastically well . . . every one of the boys returned with a medal.

“In that class of company it was a tremendous performance. The ladies also performed really well, winning gold in the singles (Catherine Beattie) and the triples (Erin Smith, Bernie O’Neill and Sandra Bailie).

“So, overall, it was a very successful venture for the country in general.”

Kelly will now set his sights on improving on his seven Irish indoor titles.

“I won the Under-25 singles lat season . . . my last year in that discipline due to the age restriction,” he adds. “I’ve managed to win the senior singles on one occasion, that was back in 2008.

“I’m really looking forward to the weekend qualifier. I’ve a tough opening match, but regardless of who you get at this stage, it was always going to be difficult. Everyone is in the last 16 on merit. Having come so far, they’ll all fancy their chances.”

Kelly, of course, has already booked his place in the semi final of the AIIB Triples, then after the National finals, he’ll fly off to Potters to compete in the World Singles Championship.

He has been drawn against the current title holder and top seed, Alex Marshall, from Scotland.