Juniors complete resurgence by clinching league title


Ballymena Juniors will be the last club to have their name engraved on the NIPGL Junior League Division 1 Cup before the NIPGL Leagues are being restructured next year.

Up until last week it looked as though the Juniors would end up without any silverware for the first time in many years.

Over the last few weeks however has seen resurgence in the Juniors league form and they went in to their last match of the season away at Belmont knowing that 4 points would secure the league title.

The visitors made a decent start and over the first half of the game they opened up a slight advantage however as the game developed the home team fought back to lead by 4 shots with only a few ends left to play.

The Ballymena men however were determined to win the title and it was the visitors who finished strongly to claim 5 points and the title for an amazing eighth time in nine years.

Ballymena Juniors (84) Belmont (79)

Leslie Barr, Tommy Hill, Danny McCullough and George Graham took on W Cromie and a count of 5 shots on the 6th end ensured that they started in a positive manner.

With7 ends completed the visitors were 8 shots to the good and 7 ends later they were still in good shape even though the advantage had reduced to 6 shots.

The home rink stunned the Braid men when they picked up 5 shots on the 15th end to get them back in to the game.

But Graham’s men dug in and over the next 4 ends they extended their lead to 6 shots and looked to be well on their way to victory.

However the Belmont rink had not read the script and counts of 5 shots on the 20th end and 3 shots on the final end saw them claim an unlikely 23-21 victory.

It was a bad day at the office for the President’s men as Alan McAuley, Norman Armstrong, Nigel McFadden and John Coulter were drawn against G McTasney.

The Braid men could only win 1 of the first 9 ends and at this stage of the game they trailed by 16 shots to 1 and there was a real possibility that if they could not get their act together that they could cost the Ballymena team the overall victory.

The Ballymena men finally settled themselves and over the next 4 ends they picked up a total of 11 shots to reduce the deficit to only 4 shots.

Unfortunately they could not maintain this momentum and over the next 5 ends the visitors stretched their lead to 11 shots but 3 singles over the final 3 ends meant that the Braid rink had limited the margin of defeat to 8 shots with the final score 24-16.

Geoff Padgett, Jimmy Larkin, Ivan Lynn and Chris Wilson quickly found themselves on the back foot against D McCullough and with 4 ends they trailed by 5 shots to 1.

The Braid men then had their best period of the game over the next 8 ends as they outscored the home rink by 15 shots to 6 to open up a 5 shot advantage.

As the game progressed the Belmont rink gradually ate in to the Ballymena lead and with only 1 end remaining Wilson’s men led by 20 shots to 18.

The final end lay well for the visitors but the Belmont third sprung the jack and all of a sudden the Ballymena rink were staring defeat in the face however the young Ballymena skip kept calm and with his final delivery he secured the shot which gave the visitors victory by 21 shots to 18.

John McFall, Artie McAuley, Neal Garrett and Roy Torrington were always in charge of their game against K Gray. The home rink could only score 3 shots over the first half of the game and a count of 6 shots on the 10th end saw the Ballymena men lead by 14 shots to 3.

The Belmont men however were not going to roll over easily and in fact they had the better of the next 8 ends when they outscored the visitors by 11 shots to 4 to close the gap to only 4 shots.

With the game finely poised the Braid men dealt their opponents a real hammer blow when they claimed their second count of 6 shots on the penultimate end and they followed this up with a further 2 shots on the final end to win by 26 shots to 14 and ensure that the league title would be going back to Ballymena this year.