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Portrush bowls star Ian McClure marked the return of the British Isles men’s bowls championships to the Republic of Ireland after a gap of 61 years by winning the coveted singles title on Friday.

McClure opened his bid for the title with an audacious 21-16 victory over reigning Commonwealth Games champion Robert Weale, from Wales, before clinching his place in the final with a runaway 21-4 over Guernsey’s Matt Le Ber.

McClure’s prospects did not look too bright in the final, when he dropped doubles over the first three ends, but he kept his head, grabbed a full house of four shots on the sixth end, and took the lead for first time with a double on the eighth end.

The 39-year-old management consultant dropped only four more ends, conceding singles on the 10th, 11th, 12th and 17th ends, but appeared in full control as he piled up the shots to win, 21-11, after 20 ends, keeping the trophy in Ireland for the third year on the trot.

“I’ve won team titles before, but it’s a totally different feeling winning something on your own,” said McClure who was congratulated by his friend and former clubmate Jeremy Henry, who is on a visit from Australia, where he is now manager of the Warilla bowls club in New South Wales.

Inspired by Ian McClure’s historic win in the British Isles men’s singles championship on Friday, Irish bowlers grabbed the initiative when the home international team series got underway at the St James’s Gate and Crumlin bowls clubs in Dublin on Saturday.

Facing the defending champions, Wales, in their opening match, the all-Ireland team, with just two players from the Republic – James Leonard and Blair Somers - in the side, made good an early deficit and took the lead on the finishing straight to win, 108-106.

With rinks honours shared, three apiece, Barry Kane’s rink won by one shot, and Clifford Craig’s quartet by two, so Ireland owed much to the 22-11 win posted by substitute skip Gary McCloy over a Welsh outfit skipped by veteran Will Thomas.

After lunch, the host country faced the Scots - who had lost to England in the morning - came out fighting as expected – but the Irish gradually got on top and pressed home to a well-deserved 108-106 victory. With England and Ireland both having defeated Scotland and Wales in their opening two games, the final match on Sunday morning promised to be a winner takes all decider. Unfortunately it was the England who eventually triumphed by 129-109.