Michelin will attempt to claim an unprecedented back-to-back Ballymena & District League and cup ‘double’ this week.
After retaining their league title last week, Michelin will be strong favourites to win the League Cup for the fifth year on the bounce when they face second division champions BIBC in Wednesday night’s final at Eaton Park.
The first part of the trophy double-header was secured during the week as Michelin won their title decider against nearest rivals BPFA ‘A’ by eight shots.
Knowing that one-and-a-half points would be enough to see them retain their crown, Michelin started in confident fashion as Grant Robinson’s rink opened up a 6-0 lead after four ends against Alan Cahoon.
The Broughshane quartet briefly threatened to make a game of it as five shots over the next three ends brought them back into the game but Michelin countered with two singles and a count of three from the final three ends to move within touching distance of the title.
It looked as though the championship would be wrapped up by the interval as Wesley Caldwell’s Michelin rink led Doran Turtle by eight shots to four with just two ends of their contest left, with the Broughshane rink having been restricted to four singles.
But the visitors had other ideas and counts of 3 and 2 over the remaining ends saw them snatch the point and keep their title hopes alive going into the second half.
As expected from two teams who have slugged out a two-horse title battle from the very outset, the second period was a closely contested game, decided by small margins.
Graham Wilson’s Michelin rink were deadlocked at 5-5 after seven ends against David Morrison but after two singles, the Woodside Road rink held the advantage going in to the final end.
The 10th end was a tense affair but the home rink were able to restrict Morrison to a single shot which gave them victory and the point needed to ensure that the league title would be staying at the Michelin Club.
On the other end, Matt Boyd’s foursome led Andrew Morrison by a shot going into the final end and they held their nerve to round things off with a single.
Matt Boyd 7 Andrew Morrison 5. The Michelin rink started well and 4 shots over the opening 3 ends got them up and running. The visitors had slightly the better of the next 5 ends when they outscored the home rink by 4 shots to 2 to reduce the arrears to a single shot with only one end remaining. Boyd’s men however were in determined mood a single on the final end gave them victory and ensured the overall victory.
In the other game in Division One, Portglenone Community Centre’s relegation back to the second division was confirmed, even though they beat Old Bleach in their final fixture.
It was a point apiece at the break with Jim Gaul’s win for the Bannsiders cancelled out by Neil Booth for Old Bleach.
Joe McErlean and Mervyn McDonald could not be separated in an 11-11 tie but Portglenone’s victory was rubber-stamped by and impressive 18-7 win from Gary Merron against Willie Fullerton.
In the second division, Golf Seniors have given themselves the best possible chance of escaping relegation after whitewashing their nearest rivals for the ‘drop’, All Saints.
The golfers amassed 64 shots as they took all five points in their relegation showdown with the Cushendall Road side.
Ian Lecky’s two-shot win over Sean Haveron included a count of seven on the third end, but Saints were in All sorts of trouble after Eugene McReynolds rink lost 27-2 to Ivan McMaster, whose rink notched two counts of six.
It didn’t get any better for Saints after the break as the raceview side piled on the misery with further wins from John Nichols and Donald Smyth as the golfers leapfrogged their opponents.
However, it may not yet be enough to prevent relegation for the golfers. While they have completed their campaign, All Saints still have an outstanding fixture against Clough Rangers and if they can take four points from that game, they will once again go back past Seniors.
Clough themselves already have runners-up spot wrapped up thanks to two points from last week’s defeat at Services ‘A’.
It all looked to be plain sailing for Rangers as Steven Gregg and Raymond Aitcheson notched both first half points for the visitors.
However it was a completely different scenario after the break as Bill Kitson and Pauline Wilson outscored their Clough opponents by a combined total of 37 shots to 10 to turn the match around completely.
The entire length of the table spanned BIBC and Moneyglass and their meeting went entirely to the formbook as the second division champions warmed up for the League Cup final by beating ‘MG’ by 38 shots thanks to rink wins by Roy Torrington, Stephen Shields, Nigel Robinson and Tommy Hill.
In the other game, Harryville secured third position by winning at Glenravel, who surpassed their own pre-season expectations by comfortably surviving in the second tier, following their promotion.
Harryville won on three of the four rinks but only picked up three points after narrow wins for Harold Smyth, Michael Allen and Robert Peacock. Glenravel’s one winning rink - skipped by Mary McAuley - was worth two points as the 11-shot margin of victory over Bertie McBride gave the Martinstown side the point for overall shots total.
Services ‘A’ 51 (3), Clough Rangers 31 (2): B Stewart 8, S Gregg 10; M Shaw 6, R Aitcheson 11; B Kitson 16, J Gregg 4; P Wilson 21, S Graham 6.
First Ballymena secured the two points they required from their trip to Maine to clinch runners-up spot in the third division.
Wins from Paddy Kerr and Laurence McQuillan were just enough to pip Matt McPeake and Jimmy Shields’ wins for ‘First’ by one shot overall as the Randalstown side finished the campaign with a victory.
Champions Antrim IBC showed no signs of taking the foot off the gas they took full points from their meeting against West Church, after rinks wins from Darren McCullough, Robert McCullough, John Logan and Nigel McCurry.
Services ‘B’ also finished on a high note, after thumping Round Tower by 61 shots to 22, with Eric Smyth, Greta Coulter, Roy Dickson and John Smith all having something to spare in their rink wins.
Division One: Michelin, played 12, points 51; BPFA ‘A’ 12-46; Golf Club 11-30.5; Old Bleach 12-31.5; BPFA ‘B’ 12-16.5; JTI 11-15; Portglenone Community Centre 12-14.5.
Division Two: BIBC 14-51.5; Clough Rangers 13-37; Harryville Community Centre 14-36; Services ‘A’ 14-34.5; Glenravel 14-34.5; Golf Seniors 14-30; All Saints 13-26.5; Moneyglass 14-25.
Division Three: Antrim IBC 12-44.5; First Ballymena 12-38; Services ‘B’ 37.5; Maine 12-23.5; Eaton Park 12-23; Round Tower 12-22.5; West Church 12-21.