On paper, this semi-final was very close to call as two of the best teams in the country fought for the much coveted Irish Cup final spot.
Playing on a very difficult Pickie green, the locals did not start well and trailed by 13 shots after just four ends.
However, it didn’t take long for the Gilford men to fight back and inspired by Andy Hughes’ four, they quickly levelled the scores and moved in front by a shot after eight ends.
For the next ten ends, there was little to separate the sides but importantly, Dunbarton always had their noses in front. Whilst both Myles Greenfield and DJ Wilson’s rinks struggled early on, they soon fought back to keep their games close. Conor McCartan’s four also battled hard and got their noses in front over the second half of the game while Andy’s men led from start to finish. It was the final four ends of the match that decided the game as the Gilford side moved into top gear and their East Belfast rivals simply couldn’t live with them.
Leading the charge was Andy’s rink who, despite being pulled back to 13-12 after 17 ends, finished with scores of 2,3,1,2 for a nine shot win. The next rink to finish was DJ’s and despite conceding five shots over the last four ends, the Dunbarton skip played a number of crucial deliveries to cut down the Belmont shots to finish just five down.
With Myles’ and Conor’s fours still alive, the locals led by seven shots and it was simply a matter of both rinks holding their nerve. On rink three, Conor and his front three produced a fine end of bowls on the penultimate end, forcing the opposition skip into two drives and when both sailed past the head, a double was scored. This was a crucial score as a fortuitous weight shot on Myles’ rink saw them go from looking likely to score a double to losing a double.
Importantly, there were still seven shots separating the sides with one end remaining on the two rinks. Again it was Conor’s men that stayed calm and produced the telling bowls with the front end of Chris Trainor and Greg Moore producing a tremendous first four bowls.
Similarly to the previous end, the Belmont skip was forced into driving and again missed with both bowls and the game was won as a count of five shots was chalked up. This left Myles’ final end meaningless and with the two skips to play and Dunbarton lying one shot, the Belmont bowlers shook hands, gracious in defeat.
Rink 1 J Moffatt, C Mulholland, P Convery, DJ Wilson down 17-22
Due to the late withdrawal of in form second Michael Merritt, Chris Mulholland was drafted in at second and whether it was due to the disruption to the rink or simply trying to adjust to the very tricky green, the Gilford rink started slowly. Despite ultimately falling to a disappointing five shot defeat, the locals certainly did their bit for the team.
Rink 2 M Higgins, J Magennis, M Trainor, M Greenfield down 18-20
Similarly to rink one Myles’ four started very slowly but over the final few ends, the Gilford men dug in and ensured that the Belmont lead was not extended, cutting the deficit to just two shots at the close. A battling performance.
Rink 3 C Trainor, G Moore, G McElroy, C McCartan up 22-11
Whilst many rinks could struggle to handle the pressure of an Irish cup semi final, especially the closing stages when the game was so tight, Conor’s four showed their class and experience. With all four bowlers applying pressure with every bowl, they managed to score counts of 2,1,2,5 for a resounding 11 shot success and guide their team-mates into another Irish Senior Cup final.
Rink 4 R McElroy, T Bell, S Adamson, A Hughes up 21-12
Andy’s rink had suffered a miserable fortnight with three uncharacteristic defeats in succession but form is temporary and class is permanent. They bounced back with a bang in the biggest game of the season. Whilst the other three rinks struggled to adapt to the Bangor green early on, Andy’s four started with a bang and put together a run of 1,2,1,1,2,1,2,1, from ends 2-9 to open up an 11-1 advantage. Over the final four ends, the Gilford foursome ensured that their early good work did not go to waste when they crucially scored 2,3,1,2 for a fantastic nine shot win. A terrific effort by all four bowlers.