A league clean sweep and an Irish Cup final placed booked - not a bad week!

THE Dunbarton senior team kept up their title challenge with an emphatic 40 shot win over Old Bleach last Friday night, and most importantly, all seven points were gained.

Their Randalstown opponents had defeated the locals the previous four times they had played so a win was long overdue for the Gilford men.

With an Irish Cup semi final against Belmont less than 24 hours later, the hosts also wanted a good win to ensure they were full of confidence for that massive tussle. Sure enough the locals produced a terrific performance to win very comfortably.

The Dunbarton green was very quick on Friday and the visitors simply couldn’t cope with its speed. With the game reduced to 18 ends due to likelihood of fading light, it was vital that the hosts started well.

Sure enough all four rinks began with a bang and effectively the game was over within seven-eight ends as the hosts moved over 20 shots in front. Only Andy Hughes’ rink had to battle as they survived a strong fightback from their rivals to win by two shots.

The other three rinks cruised home with DJ Wilson up 16, Myles Greenfield up 13 and Conor McCartan up nine. With three league matches this week, Larne (A) Tuesday, Pickie (H) on Saturday and Falls (H) on Sunday, this week will probably be make or break for the locals.

Rink 1: J Kelly, G Moore, P Convery, C McCartan up 23-14 - Conor and his front three started well and never looked back. An early 12-4 lead ensured that the result of this game was never in doubt and the locals were able to ship a few shots in the run in and still ease to a very comfortable nine shot success.

Rink 2: M Higgins, E McElroy, T Bell, DJ Wilson up 25-9 - DJ’s four also got off to a flyer as an early count of five, saw the locals storm ahead 9-2 after five ends. By the midpoint, the home lead was 17-4 and the game was effectively over. At the close, an excellent 16 shot win was achieved.

Rink 3: S Trainor, J Magennis, M Merritt, M Greenfield up 23-10 - Similarly to rinks one and two Myles’ four laid down their marker early and never looked back. A 10-3 lead after the first third put the hosts in the driving seat and from there on in there was only one winner. After the allotted 18 ends, the home four won with plenty to spare by 13 shots.

Rink 4: J Moffatt, C Mulholland, G McElroy, A Hughes up 18-16 - Over the early stages, the home rink dominated and quickly raced into an 11-1 lead against Irish international skip N Booth. At 13-3, this point looked in the bag but suddenly the away side got to grips with the speedy Dunbarton green and within four ends, the scores were locked at 13-13 and the seventh and final point was in danger. Unperturbed, the locals held their nerve and going into the last end, led by one shot. And it was skip Andy Hughes who took all the plaudits by drawing shot with a superb first bowl and this guaranteed a crucial two shot success.

BUOYED by their vitally important seven points less than 24 hours earlier, the Dunbarton A team produced a terrific performance to book their place in the blue riband Irish Senior Cup final by defeating old rivals Belmont by 12 shots.

On paper this was always going to be a cracking game and sure enough the two top class sides did not disappoint. For 18 ends of this game there was little to separate the sides but over the final few ends, the locals put their foot on the accelerator and took control.

However, the Gilford men did have to survive a very late scare when new Irish international Conor McCartan drew a magnificent shot with a massive seven shots against him on the 20th end with only three individual ends remaining and Dunbarton ahead by 10.

Myles Greenfield’s very consistant four led the way with a fine nine shot success, while good friend DJ Wilson led his rink to an excellent six shot victory despite losing a massive 12 shots in the space of two ends.

Andy Hughes fought out a gargantuan battle with his opposition to win by two. Only Conor’s four were unable to register a victory but skip Conor can hold his head very high as twice with seven shots against and one bowl remaining, he held his nerve to draw second shot on one end and shot on that all important 20th end. Two world class deliveries.

Rink 1: J Moffatt, C Mulholland, G McElroy, A Hughes up 21-19 - Andy’s four did not start well and trailed 1-7 after just four ends but then managed to stem the Belmont tide with three successive singles. At 4-11 after nine ends, the locals bounced straight back with scores of two and five and suddenly the scores were level. For the third time in the game, the East Belfast bowlers surged ahead again with scores of 1,3,2 but as usual Andy’s four dug in and fought back. With their team mates gaining momentum across the green, the Dunbarton rink played their part with scores of four and three on ends 18 and 19 and this resulted in a very hard earned two shot success.

Rink 2: S Trainor, J Magennis, M Merritt, M Greenfield up 20-11 - Myles and his very solid front three took control of their game early on and never looked back. An early count of four enabled them to open up a 6-1 lead after four ends and by the midpoint their lead was extended to 11-5. Over the second half, the Gilford men always looked the better rink but were unable to pile on the shots that they would have liked to. Importantly however, four singles on the last five ends ensured that their team kept scoring in the crucial stages and this resulted in a superb nine shot victory.

Rink 3: D Copeland, G Moore, P Convery, C McCartan down 15-20 - This game swung to and fro and despite losing, skip Conor’s performance was one of the biggest reasons that Dunbarton are in the final of the Irish Senior Cup. Early on, the loss of a five on end four saw Conor’s men trail 3-7, yet a run of 4,1,1,2,1 enabled the Gilford men to move ahead 12-7 at the midpoint. This included a truly outstanding bowl by skip Conor on end seven when with seven shots against, and the rival skip still with a bowl to play, he produced a fantastic pressure bowl to draw second shot. In trying to remove Conor’s bowl, the Belmont skip actually gave the shot away with his last delivery! However it was not long until the Belfast bowlers took control. Scores of 1,5,1,1,2,1 from ends 11-16 put Conor’s four in trouble and with the overall game so close it was vital that Conor’s four did not let their heads go down. Four shots were shared over the next three ends before Conor produced the remarkable pressure bowl on end 20 to draw shot and win the game for his team. Despite losing by five shots, this rink can take a lot of credit for battling hard especially in the run in.

Rink 4: M Higgins, E McElroy, T Bell, DJ Wilson up 25-19 - Similarly to the game beside there was plenty of drama on this rink as this battle also swung to and fro. There was no sign of nerves over the opening four ends as the locals scored 3,1,2,1 to lead 7-0 and a terrific start. Ends five and six were ends to be forgotten however as DJ’s men endured the nightmare of losing counts of seven and five and all their early good work was ruined. As usual, the Dunbarton rink dug in and quickly levelled the scores after 11 ends at 13-13. The loss of another disappointing four shots on end 12 seemed to give the Belmont rink momentum but back came the Gilford men with a vengeance. Scores of 1,2,2,1 put DJ’s quartet ahead for the first time in 11 ends and they maintained their excellent late form to score a further six shots whilst conceding two over the remaining five ends. The final outcome was a tremendous six shot success against a very strong Belmont rink.

Standing in the way of Irish Senior Cup glory for the locals is Ballymoney, the team that the locals defeated in the semi final of the same competition three years ago on their way to the glorious treble.

Importantly, the final will be held at Belmont, the same venue that Dunbarton won the Cup in 2002 and 2009 so the Gilford men will be hoping to make it three in a row. The final will take place next Saturday (25th) and a large crowd is expected, hoping to cheer on the Gilford side to glory.