Outdoor season underway at Ballymena

BALLYMENA Bowling Club got their 2010 season officially underway last Saturday afternoon at their Old Ballymoney Road premises and it was up to the new Ballymena Bowling Club President, Mr Roy Torrington and the new Ladies President, Mrs Peggy Pinkerton to throw the first bowl of the season.

A good number of members turned up to help celebrate the official opening however Iain Taggart, who is the full time green keeper at the Club had advised that it would be better to give the green some extra time to recover from the harsh winter and so the usual fun bowls competition did not take place this year.

One of the Club members, George Graham, kindly arranged a table quiz for the members present and this was followed by a lovely tea, which was provided by Ballymena Bowling Club Presidents, Roy Torrington and Mrs Peggy Pinkerton and served by some of the ladies of the Club.

SEASON PREVIEW

Here, Graham Wilson reflects on last year's efforts and looks at the prospects for several of the Ballymena club sides in the forthcoming season.

SENIORS

Most teams who only lose three games during a 24 match season would consider that they had a good season, but that is certainly not the case for Ballymena Seniors.

The seniors were still chasing silverware on three fronts but that all changed on August 15 when they suffered a narrow defeat in the semi-final of the Irish Senior Cup leaving them chasing the NIPGL Senior Division 1 title and the NIPGL Senior Cup.

Two more wins in the league saw the Seniors face a crucial 3 days early in September when they faced Dunbarton in the final game of the league and in the final of the cup but unfortunately for the Ballymena men it was Dunbarton who claimed victory in both games to leave the Braid men with nothing to show for their efforts.

In 2008 Ballymena won the IBA Senior Cup for the first time in their history and they were in no hurry to relinquish their crown. but unfortunately for the Braid team it was Cookstown who claimed victory in the semi-final to end their hopes of retaining the cup.

This year Ballymena Seniors are involved in one of the 'games of the first round' when they entertain Coleraine on Saturday, May 8 - a repeat of the quarter final from last year.

In the NIPGL Senior Division 1 the Ballymena men scored 14 straight wins scoring 86.5 points out of a possible 98 leading the league for most of the season.

The destination of the title came down to the final game of the season when Ballymena took on second placed Dunbarton. The Braid men held a 4 point lead and knew that 2 points would secure the title, but Dunbarton hadn't read the script and they recorded a 6-1 victory to inflict Ballymena's first league defeat of the season and claim the title by a single point. This year Ballymena Seniors start their league campaign with a home match on Saturday 24th April.

The draw for the NIPGL Cup did Ballymena no favours as they were drawn against Division 1 opposition all the way to the final, but wins against Larne, Belmont and Old Bleach set up a final against Dunbarton.

The final was played at Ulster Transport, but extreme weather conditions saw the match having to be stopped after only 11 ends. The final resumed at Old Bleach two weeks later with Dunbarton leading by only 2 shots and the game continued to be close right up to the end, but for the second time in three days it was Dunbarton who recorded victory by a margin of seven shots.

This year Ballymena have a first round tie at home against Clintonville on Thursday 27th May.

PGL Senior Division One fixtures: 24/04 - NICS (H), 1/05 - PSNI (A), 11/05 - Larne (H), 15/05 - Belmont Park (A), 22/05 - Old Bleach (H), 5/06 - Ulster Transport (A), 12/06 - Falls (A), 19/06 - Salisbury (H), 26/06 - Willowfield (A), 3/07 - Pickie (H), 24/07 - Comber (A), 7/08 - Belmont (H), 14/08 - Ewarts (H), 21/08 - Dunbarton (A), 28/08 - Castleton (A).

JUNIORS

Ballymena Juniors had a very successful campaign in 2009.

Like Ballymena Seniors, they too only lost 3 games all season, however they were able to claim two pieces of silverware.

The Juniors were able to successfully defend their NIPGL Junior Division 1 Title and the IBA Junior Cup and they nearly made it three out of three when they lost in the final of the NIPGL Junior Cup.

Their achievements were recognised by Ballymena Borough Council when they were awarded ‘Team of the Year’ at the annual Ballymena Sports Awards Dinner earlier this year.

In the NIPGL Junior Cup final the Ballymena men has a tough run on their way to the final, against Larne.

The final took place at Old Bleach and the Braid men made a slow start which enabled the Larne team to establish an early double figure lead from which the Ballymena team never really recovered and in the end it was Larne who claimed a narrow victory. This year Ballymena Juniors start their NIPGL Junior Cup bid when they travel of Castleton on Thursday, May 27.

After an early whitewash in the league against Downpatrick, the Juniors got in to their stride winning their next 12 matches and with other results going in their favour the title belonged to them with one match still to play. This year the Juniors begin their league campaign when they travel to Forthriver on Saturday 24th April.

The IBA Junior Cup gave the Juniors their second piece of silverware, beating surprise finalists Antrim in the decider.

Dungiven is the destination for the Juniors in the first round of the cup this year which is to be played on Saturday 8th May

PGL Junior Division One fixtures: 24/04 - Forthriver (A), 1/05 - Downpatrick (H), 11/05 - Larne (A), 15/05 - Belmont Park (H), 22/05 - Old Bleach (A), 5/06 - Ulster Transport (H), 12/06 - Falls (H), 19/06 - Ards(A), 26/06 - Willowfield (H), 3/07 - Pickie (A), 24/07 - Knock (H), 7/08 - Belmont (A), 14/08 - Mossley (A), 21/08 - Dunbarton (H) and 28/08 - Castleton (H).

SENIOR LADIES

Last year turned out to be an excellent year for the Ballymena Ladies when they captured the PTWBA Senior Cup and PTWBA Senior League, playing 14 games and amassing 63.5 points.

The top two teams in the Provincial Towns Women’s Bowling Association Senior League met at Coleraine Bowling Club to contest the Stevenson Trophy last year with Ballymena eventually claiming victory over Dunluce by five shots.

The destination of the PTWBA Senior League also came down to the final league match of the season when they played Limavady at the Old Ballymoney Road green and the Braid ladies managed to claim 5.5 points on their way to a comfortable victory to claim the title and complete the league and cup double.

The only disappointment for the ladies was an early exit in the McMaster Cup when they suffered defeat against Dungannon.

PTWBA Senior League fixtures: 28/04 - Limavady (A), 05/05 - Coleraine (H), 12/05 - Portstewart (A), 19/05 - Magherafelt (H), 2/06 - Dunluce (H), 09/06 - Ballymoney (A), 16/06 - Londonderry (H), 30/06 - Limavady (H), 07/07 - Coleraine (A), 21/07 - Portstewart (H), 28/07 - Magherafelt (A), 4/08 - Dunluce (A), 18/08 - Ballymoney (H) and 1/09 - Londonderry (A).

SELECTION MEETING

There will be a meeting on Monday, April 12, at 7pm sharp at the Club to pick selectors for five Ballymena Teams – Seniors, Juniors, Senior Park, Junior Park and Midweek.

A good turnout of members who want to play Saturday or Wednesday bowls is requested so that they can have their say in who actually takes on the important role of selecting the various teams.