The reign is over after Irish Senior Cup holders Dunbarton crashed out of this year’s competition with an agonising defeat at rivals Ballymena.
In a repeat of the 2015 final, Ballymena got some sort of revenge by dumping out the holders by 12 shots at the Old Ballymoney Road venue.
All the damage was done on one rink, with Ballymena’s Andi Duncan and his rink giving an outstanding display of top quality bowls which resulted in at 26 shot victory for the sky blue men.
Despite rink wins for the Gilford side from Derick Wilson, Conor McCartan and Marty Trainor, it was not enough to see them through to round three.
On rink one for Dunbarton, Michael Higgins, Tony Bell, Myles Greenfield and skip Andy Hughes had a torrid afternoon against the superb Ballymena rink skipped by Andi Duncan.
By five ends they were 0-10 behind and that ten shot deficit remained at ten ends (3-13). By 15 ends Duncan had stretched the Ballymena lead to 17 shots (4-21) and ran out convincing winners with a score line of 5-31.
On rink two, DJ Wilson and his front three of David Copeland, Jack Moffett and Peter Convery were pitted against former Ireland team manager Jim Baker.
After a tight start to the game, with the scores level at five ends (3-3), Wilson’s four hit the front with a count of five shots on the sixth end (8-3), but Baker and his rink quickly replied over the next four end and by 10 ends the scores were level again at 9-9.
The local rink lost their way over the next five ends and on the fifteenth end, with Dunbarton lying three shots, Baker luckily edged of a short bowl onto the jack and suddenly lay six shots. Despite the best efforts of Wilson, he had to settle for third shot and they were 9-16 behind.
That bowl from Baker seemed to inspire the Dunbarton four into action as the won the remaining six ends with some superb bowls and had a great 22-16 victory.
Rink three’s match seen Dunbarton skip Conor McCartan and his rink of Chris Trainor, Chris Mulholland and Gary McElroy face new Irish International skip Steven Coleman.
A tight game was played out across the 21 ends with Dunbarton settling for a 17-16 win.
For the first nine ends of the game on rink four, it looked like Marty Trainor and his rink were going to be able to cancel out what was occurring on rink one for Dunbarton. Along with Sean and Kieran Trainor and Alan Paul, they were off to a great start in the first end with a count of four against Ballymena skip Nigel Robinson.
The Dunbarton lads pushed right to the end, but their efforts were in vain despite a great 22-15 win.
And so the holders were out. A valiant effort but huge disappointment that they could not overcome Ballymena at their own green, which they still search for that elusive win, last accomplished in 2009.
Attention will now return to the NIPGL Division one title and retaining their NIPGL Senior Cup. They play away to Mossley tonight (Tuesday).