The script-writer came up with an absolute classic for Dunbarton’s seventh Irish Cup success.
Coming up against their old rivals Ballymena, many outsiders predicted a classic in Randalstown as Dunbarton have been in sparkling form over the past six weeks while Ballymena are a top side on their day and have some outstanding players.
No one, however, would have predicted what unfolded.
The opening five ends were nip and tuck as little separated the sides. Andy Hughes had started with a bang while the other three rinks were behind. By the midpoint, the Braidmen had started to take control and with two of the Gilford rinks really struggling, it looked like the cup was heading to Ballymena.
At the three quarter mark, there was only one side in it as Dunbarton were simply being outbowled.
Howeverm then came one of the most remarkable comebacks ever witnessed in an Irish Senior Cup final.
DJ Wilson’s rink, who had been battered and bruised for 17 ends, produced a magnificent final four ends to score 1,6,2,4 and turn around a ten shot deficit into a three shot success.
Meanwhile, Andy Hughes’ superb rink were storming ahead of their opposition and scoring shots at will. They moved clear 27-11 with two ends remaining.
With DJ’s rink finished, Myles Greenfield’s four were next off and they lost by eight shots, while Marty Trainor’s four still had three ends remaining and were behind 8-22.
Suddenly, there was just four shots separating the sides and all the momentum was Dunbarton’s.
Andy had two ends left, Marty had three ends left and it was all to play for. Some superb bowls on end 20 on Andy’s rink resulted in a double and when Marty scored a single, it was down to one shot with now three to play overall.
For once, Andy’s ever consistent rink did not produce one of their best ends but British Isles triples Champion Andy once again showed his class to turn the jack and score shot. That meant the scores were level with all eyes now on Marty’s rink.
Both teams and all the spectators were glued to the final rink and up stepped lead Davy Copeland to produce a tremendous lead bowl which paved the way for a count of two and for the first time in around 17 ends, Dunbarton were ahead. One final nerve-wracking end remained.
Next to step up to the plate was one of the club’s unsung heroes, second John Magennis who turned the jack for shot and things looked good for the men in yellow and black.
Third Michael Merritt then drew two more bowls in the head but his opposite number drew shot and the nerves were frayed again as Ballymena lay one shot with just the skips to play.
Despite a tough day at the office, skip Marty produced another cracking delivery to turn the jack into a clump of bowls which were mainly yellow stickered. Although he was still shot down, the head was a lot safer and when his opposite number missed with both drives and actually took out his closest bowl, the celebrations ensued.
It was an incredible fightback, a display of true guts and character and despite this not being the team’s best performance, Dunbarton dug in, fought to the end and achieved a remarkable Irish Cup success.
Rink 1 D Copeland, J Magennis, M Merritt, M Trainor down 14-22
For two thirds of this game, it was one way traffic as Marty’s men didn’t get going. The loss of nine successive ends saw Marty’s men trail 3-18 and the game looked up for this rink and the team.
However, as happens so often in bowls, it is the rink that is losing by the most that wins the game and over the final seven ends they outscored their rivals 11-4.
And most importantly, with the game all square overall with just two ends remaining, the Gilford four held their nerve in the pressure cooker situation to score a two on end 20 and a four on the final end for a glorious finish.
Third Michael Merritt was the pick of the rink but all four bowlers held their nerve at the end.
Rink 2 M Higgins, T Bell, C Mulholland, A Hughes up 30-11
This was Dunbarton’s star rink as while the other three were struggling for the majority of the game, Andy’s rink always kept in front and gave their team-mates some hope to cling to.
After five ends, they led 8-0 and by the midpoint their advantage was 10-4. Throughout the second half the Dunbarton men applied pressure bowl after bowl as they lifted doubles and trebles and played a huge part in team’s victory.
By the close they had hammered their beleaguered opponents by a massive 19 shots.
Special mention must be given to the front end of Michael Higgins and Tony Bell who were in terrific touch.
Rink 3 C Trainor, J Kelly, G McElroy, M Greenfield down 11-19
Skip Myles and his front three will wonder how they lost this match as in particular Chris and James at the front end were so much better than their opposite numbers.
However, credit must be given to the Ballymena skip A Duncan who was in outstanding form. An early 2-5 deficit was a bad start and by the midpoint they trailed by six. Despite their best efforts, Myles’ men were unable to put a run together but while the other three rinks were fighting back over the last few ends, this Gilford rink kept their game tight.
At the finish they trailed by eight shots but battled hard, especially during the run in.
Rink 4 R McElroy, J Moffett, P Convery, DJ Wilson up 27-24
This was a topsy turvy game. An early 4-0 lead after two ends was ruined when 13 unanswered shots saw the locals trail 4-13. Scores of two and six the next two ends reduced the Ballymena lead to one shot, only for the Braidmen to bounce back and with four ends remaining DJ’s rink trailed 14-24.
Then the Dunbarton comeback ensued. A single on end 18 was a start but on end 19, when skip DJ turned the closest blue stickered bowl out for six and incredibly experienced skip J Baker was short, the tide was well and truly turning.
Two superb bowls by young lead Ryan McElroy on the penultimate end resulted in a double and now the determined Gilford rink trailed by just one.
And the last end was as dramatic as the final itself. When the Ballymena second turned the jack to lie three shots, it looked like all Dunbarton’s hard work would be undone. Up stepped third Peter Convery to ditch the jack and when DJ got in for two with his first bowl, it looked like they would pull a win out of nowhere.
Inexplicably Baker then took out his closest bowl to leave Dunbarton lying three and then DJ drew to within one inch of the ditch to lie four. And when Baker sailed into the ditch with his last bowl, DJ’s men had somehow won their game by three shots and given their team mates a huge lift.