JTI ensured they wouldn’t become the victims of the biggest ‘giant-killing’ act to date in the Ballymena & District League Cup.
The Ahoghill-based side were very much in the firing line as they began the second leg of their tie against Services ‘B’ just two shots in front after the first instalment.
And with Services receiving a further 20 shots on handicap due to their third division status, JTI effectively started the game 18 shots adrift and a testing evening looked in store at the Trostan Avenue clubrooms.
As it was, the top flight outfit illustrated the gap that exists between the first and third divisions as they racked up almost 60 shots, to win by 13 shots overall over the two games.
JTI’s prospects of being in the next round looked fairly gloomy at the halfway stage as they had failed to make any inroads into their deficit with the scores on the night remaining level, with Len McIlroy’s five shot win for JTI cancelled out by John Simms’ victory by the same margin for Services.
The interval clearly allowed JTI to refocus as they emerged like a different team and the rinks skipped by Graham Maybin and Helen Lynn outgunned their Services counterparts by 40 shots to nine.
The Trostan Avenue venue again had the potential for an upset the following evening as it played host to the Services ‘A’ v Golf Club tie, in which Services ‘A’s 10-shot handicap advantage saw them start the evening two shots ahead overall.
That advantage had stretched to three by the interval after first half wins from B Stewart for the home side and Johnny Lynn for the golfers.
Once again, however, the quality of the first division side shone through in the second half as wins from Sean Mcgarry and David McCullough ensured the scores were tied on the night, meaning the Raceview outfit progressed by the eight-shot margin they had ended the first leg with.
Michelin, winners of the trophy for the past five years, eased into the next round with a comfortable 23-shot success over the two legs. Grant Robinson and Wesley Caldwell added to Michelin’s first leg lead with wins in the first half.
Mervyn McDonald’s rink gave Bleach a glimmer of hope but Matt Boyd put the gloss on Michelin’s win.
Maine made a bold attempt to undo their 23-shot first leg defeat at the hands of All Saints, but ultimately came up 11 shots shy.
Saints had actually gained a couple more shots in the first leg in Randalstown despite a defeat for Sean Haveron at the hands of John Heffron, while Anthony Mitchell’s rink also won for the Ballymena side.
Laurence McQuillan and Brie Magill threw the proverbial kitchen sink at the challenge for Maine in the second half but could only claw back 14 of the shots they needed.
Another all-second division meeting saw Portglenone CC ease into the next round with 19 shots to spare over First Ballymena. The rink wins were shared with Kieran Adams and Roy Hunter successful for the Bannsiders, while Roland Woods and David McQuitty won for the church side.
In the other tie, Moneyglass withdrew from their game against BPFA ‘A’.
First Ballymena 35, Portglenone Community Centre 38: J Davison 4, K Adams 13; R Woods 13, J Gaul 10; D McQuitty 11, J McErlean 6; L McQuitty 7, R Hunter 9. Aggregate - First Ballymena 66, Portglenone 85.
Maine 41, All Saints 29: J Heffron 10, S Haveron 9; P Kerr 9, A Mitchell 12; L McQuillan 13, E McReynolds 5; B Magill 9, N Mitchell 3. Aggregate - Maine 71, All Saints 82.
Services ‘B’ (+20) 47, JTI 58: R Dickson 7, L McIlroy 12; J Simms 11, T Rock 6; G Coulter 7, G Maybin 21; J Smith 2, H Lynn 19. Aggregate - Services 93, JTI 106.
Services ‘A’ (+10) 39, Golf Club 39: M Norton 6, J Lynn 7; B Stewart 9, F Dawson 7; D McLaughlin 7, S McGarry 14; M Shaw 7, D McCullough 11. Aggregate - Services 70, Golf Club 78.
Michelin 38, Old Bleach 23: G Robinson 8, N Booth 5; W Caldwell 11, W Fullerton 5; J McWhirter 4, M McDonald 9; M Boyd 15, A Scott 4. Aggregate - Michelin 71, Old Bleach 48.
The revised second round draw is: Antrim IBC v BPFA ‘B’; Golf Club - bye; BIBC v All Saints; JTI v Portglenone CC; Harryville CC v West Church; Michelin v Glenravel; Eaton Park v Round Tower; Golf Seniors v BPFA ‘A’.
The league extends its sympathy to former chairman and Services ‘B’ player John Smith on the passing of his wife Sheila, who also played for the Trostan Avenue club.