Dunbarton still have chance of winning title

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THE Dunbarton senior team’s faint hopes of securing the Senior Division One title are still intact after a fascinating game on Saturday at home to table topping Ballymena.

Missing two first teamers, the locals needed a big performance against a full strength Ballymena team and that was exactly what they produced.

In a game that ebbed and flowed, the locals will be gutted to have had three rinks up and still not won the game despite gaining the lion’s share of the points.

With only 15 A team players available, midweek bowler Davy Graham took his place on Conor McCartan’s rink and unfortunately they had a day to forget as they lost heavily. However with the two middle rinks skipped by Stevie Adamson and Andy Hughes in excellent form and DJ Wilson having a titanic battle with Ireland team manager Jim Baker, there was never much in the game.

On the final end of the game the Braidmen led by one shot but thanks to tremendous bowls by lead Sean Trainor and second John Magennis the locals lay a very good shot with just one bowl remaining.

However, away skip Marty McHugh is as good a player as there is in this country so the points were not guaranteed. Even so, it was going to take a wonder bowl by McHugh to score shot and as his weight shot drifted inside the jack, the scores finished level.

With second placed Belmont losing at home to Ulster Transport, the locals will be kicking themselves as a 6-1 victory would have kept them firmly in the title race. Especially as Ballymena and Belmont have to play each other twice, while Dunbarton have six games remaining, all against teams below them and four of these at home. Their title challenge is not over just yet!

Rink 1: M Higgins, D Graham, G McElroy, C McCartan down 10-27 - With midweek bowler David Graham brought in at second to make up 16 players, he had to endure a tough afternoon of senior bowls at it’s highest level. Over the early stages, it was the visitors that settled the better and soon built up a 2-5 advantage after five ends. At the midpoint, things had got worse for the hosts as they now trailed 4-12. From thereonin, things didn’t improve as try as they could, the locals struggled to compete with an in form Braid rink. By the close, the locals had slumped to a very disappointing 17-shot shot reverse.

Rink 2: S Trainor, J Magennis, M Merritt, S Adamson up 24-16 - In the reverse fixture earlier in the season, the away rink skipped by M McHugh gave their Dunbarton adversaries a bowling lesson, winning by 22 shots. Sean, John and Michael were on the end of that hammering that night and with a new skip this game, Stevie Adamson, they produced a magnificent performance to bounce back and erase those memories. Early on there was little to separate the rinks as the scores were tied at 7-7. A treble on the following end put a bit of daylight between the hosts and their rivals and for the remainder of the game, Stevie’s men were in control. With all four home bowlers applying pressure, the visitors were having to play weight a lot and whilst many strikes were accurate, some were missed. With two ends remaining, the locals led by five and two superb bowls from skip Stevie resulted in a double on the penultimate end. Now leading by seven, their point was secure but as they were the only rink left on the green and overall their team trailed by one, it was vital that the locals scored. Excellent bowls from the front end set up a winning position as they lay two very close bowls. Whilst the away third did cut down to just one shot, the hosts secured the vital shot to ensure the lion’s share of the points.

Rink 3: E McElroy, C Mulholland, P Convery, A Hughes up 21-14 - Two years ago when Dunbarton claimed their historic fifth league title in a row by thumping Ballymena in Gilford, Andy Hughes was drafted in at skip and hammered Ballymena skip Nigel Robinson by 26 shots. On Saturday, Hughesy was once again up against the same player and once again in inspired form. An early 7-0 lead was a great start and throughout the game, the Dunbarton foursome had their opponents at arms length. At one stage, the locals did move ahead by ten shots but by the close a fine seven shot success was achieved. An excellent performance.

Rink 4: D Copeland, G Moore, T Bell, DJ Wilson up 17-15 - Throughout this season, DJ’s four have started slowly on a number of occasions, once again this was the case. After six ends, the home rink were in arrears 2-8 to a very buoyant Ballymena rink but they managed to quickly reduce the deficit and by end thirteen, moved ahead 10-9. With the scores locked at 13-13 after 18 ends it was anyone’s game but a treble on the next end for the hosts put them in the driving seat. Over the final two ends however, the visitors put the pressure on and a poor head on end 20 resulted in the loss of a double. Then on the final end with just one bowl remaining, Ballymena lay three shots and their point looked to be in the bag. However the final bowl was in the hand of Irish International DJ Wilson and he showed why he donned the Irish jersey last weekend in Wales with a superb weight shot that ditched the jack for shot and not only their point but a crucial turnaround of four shots for the team.

With six games remaining the Private Greens Senior League Division One table is as follows:

Ballymena 11 63

Belmont 12 60

Dunbarton 12 56

Old Bleach 12 49

Ulster Transport 11 44

Falls 11 37

Pickie 12 36

Larne 12 36

Willowfield 13 16

Castleton 12 16

Having finished fifth last year, the locals have greatly improved this year, and are still in with a shout – just! Their first gane however after the July break is a mouthwatering Irish Senior Cup quarter final at home to Portrush!

- In the Private Greens Championships, the competitions have been whitted down to the semi final stages and it looks odds on that a Dunbarton rink will lift the Fours trophy. 2010 winners Michael Higgins, Andy Hughes, DJ Wilson and Myles Greenfield are on the prowl again as are team mates Eamon McElroy, Greg Moore, Gary McElroy and Conor McCartan. The third Dunbarton rink is comprised of three players from their junior team, Fergie Larkin, James Kelly and Clifford Dennison with A team stalwart Tony Bell playing at third. The only non Dunbarton rink into the semi finals is skipped by B McGrath (Old Bleach).

The semi finals will be played on Monday 30th and Tuesday 31st July with finals on Saturday 4th August. All games will be played at Ulster Transport Bowling Club and the club would like to wish their bowlers well.