Bowls: Cup success would be seventh heaven for Dunbarton
The Dunbarton bowlers are hoping their 100% record in Irish Cup finals will still be intact this time next week.
The Gilford team take on Old Bleach in their seventh final on Saturday hoping to pick up the trophy for the seventh time.
The big match will take place at Ulster Transport at Jordanstown, starting at 2pm and Dunbarton’s DJ Wilson is hoping Bleach won’t scrub away his side’s historic record.
“If we play to our ability, we will win but anything can happen,” he said.
“We know we have nothing to fear but we will treat them with respect. We have to treat them like we would Ballymena or Belmont.”
By the time the sides meet on Saturday, they’ll be well acquainted as they also go face to face in the league on Thursday. And if there’s any bad blood during Saturday’s big occasion, they’ll only have to wait 24 hours to put it right as the two teams meet again in Gilford on Sunday.
The backlog of fixtures, DJ says, is due to the lack of floodlights at their Gilford green.
On Saturday evening though, his side are hoping there’ll be plenty of spotlights beaming onto their faces as they collect the trophy.
To do that, they’ll have to overcome a side who are searching for their first Cup win but boast an array of past and present Irish internationals. Most notable is recent Commonwealth Games skip Neil Booth and alongside him are James Talbot, Michael Nutt and Jonny Millar.
“Neil is as good a bowler as there is in world bowls so on his day, he can beat anybody,” said Wilson.
“We have nothing to fear though. Everyone is playing well, has the hunger and is putting in the effort.
“We have a squad of 18 good players so I feel sorry for the selectors. They’re going to have to leave out two players who are playing well.”
Dunbarton have already been the scourge of County Antrim in this season’s tournament, beating Ballymoney and Portrush on the way. They also beat fellow North Coast side Coleraine and produced the goods in the west against Cookstown. Now they are hoping to dump another Antrim side out at the final hurdle.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s Senior Cup final, Wilson was getting excited.
“If you can’t enjoy an Irish Cup final, you shouldn’t be playing bowls,” said DJ.
“It’s a great experience. This will be my fourth but you never get tired of them. Some bowlers will never even get to experience one so to play in my fourth is fantastic.
“It’s all come from four or five months of hard work. All the lads have put in so much work since the season started in April. That’s why we are where we are.”
Should Dunbarton triumph over the mid-table side this weekend, it would be the fourth time they’ve won the trophy in 12 years, having previously come up trumps in 2002, 2009 and 2012.
However, last season wasn’t quite so successful for the Gilford lads as they failed to bring home any silverware.
“We lost three of our first five league games and our season petered out from there,” explained Wilson. “Dunbarton have always been a confidence team. Once we build up a head of steam, we think we can beat anybody and that’s the way we’ve been this season.
“We won our first 10 or 11 league games and that has made all the difference.”
They have continued that form right through the season, only put out of the Private Greens Cup by Ballymena in extra ends in the quarters.
They set up the Irish Cup final tie with a 13 shot win over arch rivals Belmont on Saturday.
“It was very tight,” said Wilson. “Belmont are as good a team as we have come up against. It was such a close game and we only really got away from then in the final two or three ends.”
This time next week, Dunbarton could have one trophy in the bag and be on the brink of the double. Alternatively, their season could yet hold a sting in the tail. Either way, Old Bleach will have played a huge role in the biggest week of Dunbarton’s season to date.