Just over a month into the new Ballymena & District League season and already the indications are that the battle for the Division One title will be a two-horse race.
Even at this fledgling stage of the campaign, defending champions Michelin and their 2013 predecessors Broughshane Playing Fields Association ‘A’ have opened up a yawning gap on the teams below them.
Broughshane edged to within half a point closer to leaders Michelin after taking four points from their home game against Golf Club.
In a closely-contested first half, Doran Turtle’s BPFA rink pipped Johnny Lynn by a single shot while Alan Cahoon had a two-shot winning margin over David McCullough.
The golfers replied after the break with a single shot win of their own, as Kevin McGarry’s rink shaded the verdict over David Morrison but the overall result was settled when Andrew Morrison’s rink outscored Sean Mcgarry by seven shots for an overall nine-shot win for BPFA.
At the same time, Michelin were also being made to work hard before they claimed three-and-a-half points from a home fixture against Old Bleach.
Michelin dominated the first half, winning both rinks. Wesley Caldwell’s eight shot win over Bryan Magrath ultimately had a major bearing on the overall outcome, while Grant Robinson squeezed past Neil Booth after scoring a match-winning single on the final end.
In the second half, Matthew Boyd and Jonathan Millar were involved in a tight tussle right up until the final end when the score was 8-7 in Michelin’s favour.
With each skip having 1 bowl to play Michelin lay 2 shots. Millar played with weight in to the head with his final delivery and when the ‘head’ had settled OB lay two shots. Boyd was able to claim 2nd shot with his final bowl to draw the game 8-8.
The game between Graham Wilson and Mervyn McDonald was a low-scoring one but the decisive blow was struck by the Randalstown side on the ninth end when they picked up three shots to lead by two with only one end remaining and Michelin were only able to claim a single to go down 7-6.
Broughshane PFA ‘B’ claimed their first win since their promotion back to the top flight when they took four points from a home game against struggling JTI.
The basement side actually led by four shots at the break after Timothy Rock claimed their first point of the season with an eight shot win over James Wasson, while George Davidson replied for Broughshane by beating Helen Lynn by four shot.
After the break, Noel Graham’s rink put daylight between the sides, outscoring Billy Lynn by 12 shots, while Andrew Davidson’s rink added the gloss for Broughshane with a three-shot win over Graham Maybin.
BPFA ‘A’ 37 (4), Golf Club 28 (1): D Turtle 8, J Lynn 7; A Cahoon 10, D McCullough 8; D Morrison 7, K McGarry 8; A Morrison 12, S McGarry 5.
Michelin 39 (3.5), Old Bleach 31 (1.5): W Caldwell 15, B Magrath 7; G Robinson 10, N Booth 9; M Boyd 8, J Millar 8; G Wilson 6, M McDonald 7.
BPFA ‘B’ 35 (4), JTI 24 (1): J Wasson 3, T Rock 11; G Davidson 8, H Lynn 4; N Graham 14, B Lynn 2; A Davidson 10, G Maybin 7.
Clough Rangers’ unbeaten start to the season came unstuck when they were beaten by Golf Seniors, who claimed their first win of the campaign.
The Raceview side made a sound start when Ivan McMaster beat Stuart Gregg in a game which produced 12 shots, including nine singles, but, in stark contrast, Mal Norton replied with a win for Clough over Ian Lecky, in a game which boasted no less than three counts of four.
It was well set up for the second half, but the golfers took command as John Nichols’ rink roared into a 13-shot lead over Gregory Kirk, who managed to restore some respectability to the scoreline by winning three of the final four ends.
On the other mat, Donald Smyth and Raymond Aitcheson could not be separated in an 11-11 tie, thanks to Smyth’s rink scoring three shots on the final end after Aitcheson’s quartet looked to have won it with a six on the seventh end.
BIBC are the new leaders as they swept to a maximum points victory at Glenravel, who are still awaiting their first win since promotion from the third division.
The writing was on the wall when they trailed by 24 shots at the break, thanks to comprehensive wins from the rinks skipper by Stephen Shields and Tommy Hill.
Glenravel were more competitive after the break but they couldn’t prevent further rink wins from Nigel Robinson and Danny McCullough, who scored three shots on the last end having been lying three shots against.
Services ‘A’ make up the trio of early pacesetters in the second tier and they maintained their unbeaten start with a four shot win at Harryville Community Centre.
The Trostan Avenue side looked well set for a commanding victory as they led by 20 shots at the interval, thanks to wins from B Stewart and Bill Kitson.
Remarkably, however, Willard Reid overturned Kitson’s 18-2 winning scoreline against Mark Shaw, while Joe Patterson shared the point in his game with Bertie Mark.
Elsewhere, All Saints claimed their first win of the league campaign with a comprehensive 21-shot success over Moneyglass.
Sean Haveron’s rink gave Saints a good start with a 16 shot win over Henry Graham, whose three shots came on the final end.
There were further rink wins for Saints from Anthony Mitchell and Tony Dillon, while the visitors’ only crumb of comfort came from Sean McNeilly, who defeated Eugene McReynolds after scoring five shots on the last end.
Golf Seniors 44 (3.5), Clough Rangers 34 (1.5): I McMaster 9, S Gregg 3; I Lecky 8, M Norton 13; J Nichols 16, G Kirk 7; D Smyth 11, R Aitcheson 11.
Harryville CC 35 (1.5), Services ‘A’ 39 (3.5): G Worthington 7, B Stewart 11; D Wilkinson 2, B Kitson 18; J Patterson 8, B Mark 8; W Reid 18, M Shaw 2.
All Saints 49 (4), Moneyglass 28 (1): S Haveron 19, H Graham 3; A Mitchell 13, S Kerr 6; T Dillon 9, H Magee 6; E McReynolds 8, S McNeilly 13.
Glenravel 20 (0), BIBC 55 (5): V Bryson 5, S Shields 15; M McAuley 1, T Hill 15; J McKeegan 6, N Robinson 12; M McKeegan 8, D McCullough 13.
West Church leapfrogged Round Tower at the foot of the third division table by claiming their first win of the season.
The Craig Hall side came away from the Antrim venue with four points, which more than doubled their tally for the season to date!
Victor Mahon’s rink edged a hard-fought encounter with Helen Totten by a single shot but Jim Rainey’s rink had more breathing space against J Rice.
Tom Wilson’s rink added a third win for ‘West’ while Tower’s only responde came from Michael Teer, whose rink defeated Maurice Livingstone.
Antrim IBC lost their unbeaten record when they lost to Services ‘B’ and they will rue the loss of a quarter of the shots on Robert McCullough’s rink, which only had three players, and which was vital in the overall context of the game.
John Smith and Eric Smyth skipped their Services rinks to first half wins and although Tom Evans and John Logan won for Antrim after the break, they still came up short by one-and-a-half shots after that first half deduction.
After a largely close-fought encounter between Maine and Eaton Park, a 14-shot win for Laurence McQuillan over George Reid was enough to tip the balance in the Randalstown side’s favour.
Eaton park, who have made a bright start following their readmission to the league, snapped up both first half points through Bonar Hill and John Carruthers but Pat Reeves kept Maine in the game, enabling McQuillan’s rink to secure not only their only win but also the point for the overall shots total in a remarkable turnaround.
Round Tower 24 (1), West Church 34 (4): H Totten 7, V Mahon 8; J Rice 2, J Rainey 13; M Teer 10, M Livingstone 6; J O’Neill 5, T Wilson 7.
Services ‘B’ 34 (3), Antrim IBC 32.5 (2): J Smith 11, R McCullough 7.5; E Smyth 8, D McCullough 5; G Coulter 8, T Evans 10; R Dickson 7, J Logan 10.
Maine 37 (3), Eaton Park 27 (2): J Heffron 6, B Hill 10; P O’Neill 6, J Carruthers 9; P Reeves 8, G Shaw 5; L McQuillan 17, G Reid 3.