Carrick bowlers crowned Junior Cup champions

Carrickfergus Bowling Club are the NIBA Junior Cup winners for 2015 after a hard-fought win by 10 shots (84 v 74) against Whitehead.

Carrickfergus Bowling Club are the NIBA Junior Cup winners for 2015. INCT 31-675-CON

The match was played at Grove Park in Belfast, the home green of Clarendon BC, with the Senior Cup final played on an adjoining green.

Carrickfergus were given the ‘home’ position on the scoreboard but it was Whitehead who moved into an early lead in the first quarter, going 9 shots up after 5 ends as the rinks skipped by Dean Smith (0 v 11) and Robert Ruddock (3 v 12) started well, up by a combined 20 shots.

However the situation was completely different on the other two rinks, with Kenny Peoples racing ahead 8 v 0 against Brian Connor and Billy Nicholl 5 v 2 up on Colin Todd.

The 9 shot lead was the best Whitehead could manage on the night, as the game gradually moved away in favour of Carrickfergus, who gained a 12 shot swing in the next quarter of the game and moved into a 3 shot lead after 10 ends.

The main damage to Whitehead in the first half of the game was caused by the rink skipped by Kenny Peoples, who now had a 16 v 0 advantage over Brian Connor.

But on Norman Porter’s rink, Whitehead’s John O’Neill was putting enormous pressure on the Carrickfergus rink, who were already 24 v 0 down after 10 ends.

Stephen Dodds rallied his rink after losing two fours on the 3rd and 4th ends to win 4 out of the next five ends and take the lead 16 v 14 at the halfway stage against Robert Ruddock, while Billy Nicholl’s rink stepped up a gear to increase their lead to 9 shots (14 v 5) over Colin Todd, winning 7 of the first 10 ends.

Whitehead fought back in the 3rd quarter with a swing of 6 shots to take the lead 58 v 61 after 15 ends.

Norman Porter’s rink dug deep to stop the flood and build the foundation for a fight back that would be vital for a Carrickfergus victory.

They held the line, won 2 of the next 5 ends and were only 1 shot worse off at 3 v 28 after 15 ends.

Stephen Dodds and his rink continued to chip away against Robert Ruddock, with a 2, 3 and 1 over the next 5 ends extending the lead. Carrickfergus made a 3 shot gain in the 3rd quarter on this rink to lead 22 v 17 after 15 ends.

Billy Nicholl’s rink suffered a Whitehead surge from Colin Todd as his rink won all 5 ends in the 3rd quarter for an 8 shot gain to close the gap to 1 shot (14 v 13).

It was the gain by Colin Todd’s rink that pushed Whitehead into a small overall lead (3 shots) after 15 ends but it was still too close to call at this stage.

Carrickfergus just edged the last 24 ends, winning 13 to 11, but won 6 of the last 8 and critically, to finally get some breathing space in shot difference, won the 20th end on all 4 rinks for a swing of 7 shots.

Carrickfergus had a net overall gain on 5 of the last 6 ends, bringing the match level on the 17th end before taking a 3 shot lead on the 18th and taking a giant stide towards winning the cup on the 20th end.

Carrickfergus were 6 shots ahead with just 2 ends left, but when Bob McNeill put his bowl on the jack, sitting right behind it on a full length head, the game was safe and with Billy Nicholl glancing in off a short bowl for second shot with his last bowl for Carrickfergus to take an 8 shot lead into the final end.

Errol Robinson put his first bowl beside the jack on the last end, all the other bowls were well mixed making the game safe and the celebrations could begin.