A few weeks ago it looked as though Ballymena Juniors would end without any silverware for the first time in many years.
Exits from the Irish Cup and NIPGL Junior Cup left the NIPGL Junior League Division 1 as the only hope of a trophy this year; however with 6 league defeats even that looked unlikely. Over the last few weeks however has seen resurgence in the Juniors league form and the Braid men knew that two good victories this week would put them in pole position to claim the title. On paper they faced two tough matches against this year’s NIPGL Cup final teams, however the Braid men really found their form and on Tuesday night they demolished local rivals Old Bleach by a massive 52 shots to claim all 7 points and on Friday night they claimed another 6 points as they defeated Larne by 22 shots. Victory next Saturday at Belmont will see them clinch the title.
Ballymena Juniors (104) Old Bleach (52): Leslie Barr, Tommy Hill, Danny McCullough and George Graham opened their account against E Evans with a count of 4 shots. The next 10 ends were more evenly contested as the Braid men still lead by 3 shots. Over the next 5 ends however the Ballymena men stepped up a gear and with scores of 4,2,5,1 and 6 over the next 5 ends they increased their advantage from 3 shots to a massive 21 shots. The Braid men took their foot off the gas over the remaining ends but once the game had been concluded they still had a healthy advantage as they registered an excellent 31-14 victory.
John McFall, Artie McAuley, Neal Garrett and Roy Torrington took a few ends to settle down against G Barnes and with 3 ends played they trailed by 4 shots to 0. Over the next 5 ends the Braid men found their form and 8 unanswered shots gave them a 4 shot advantage. Three ends later the visitors were back on level terms but the complexion of the game changed on the 12th end when the Ballymena men picked up a count of 5 shots. The visitors never really recovered from this set back and they were only able to score on 2 more ends as the Braid rink went on to record a fine victory by 22 shots to 13.
Alan McAuley, Arnold Kenny, Nigel McFadden and John Coulter started well against W Patton and with 5 ends completed they had already built up a cushion of 7 shots. Four shots on the 6th end got the visitors back in to the game and over the next 6 ends they reduced the Braid lead to only a single shot. Counts of 4 and 3 over the next 2 ends saw the Ballymena men reassert their authority on the game and even though the visitors had slightly the better of the closing exchanges the Braid men had done enough the earn their point with the final score 20-17.
Geoff Padgett, Jimmy Larkin, Ivan Lynn and Chris Wilson were in dominant form against F Anderson. During the first half of the game the visitors were only able to score 3 singles but with the help of two counts of 4 shots on the 5th and 10th ends and a count of 5 shots on the 8th end the Ballymena men found themselves leading the game by 20 shots to 3. The second half of the game also belonged to the Braid rink. The visitors found shots hard to come by and they won 4 of the remaining ends to increase their score to 8 shots. The Ballymena men however picked up another 11 shots to extend their advantage to 23 shots and claim an excellent 31-8 victory.
Ballymena Juniors (89) Larne (67): Alan McAuley, Arnold Kenny, Nigel McFadden and John Coulter picked up 4 singles against L King to establish an early lead. Two ends later however the visitors were back on level terms with the score board reading 4-4. The next period of the game was well contested and with 15 ends completed the game was still close with the Braid men holding a 3 shot advantage. Eight shots over the next 3 ends saw the Ballymena rink pull away and they would eventually go on to win by 22 shots to 13.
Leslie Barr, Tommy Hill, Danny McCullough and George Graham started off like a house on fire against J Smith and with 5 ends completed they had already opened up a 6 shots advantage. The Braid men doubled their lead on the next end when they picked up 6 shots and this put the home rink well on their way to victory. With only 5 ends remaining the Ballymena lead by 22 shots to 9 and even though the visitors had the better of the closing exchanges it made little difference to the final outcome with the Braid men winning by 23 shots to 16.
John McFall, Artie McAuley, Neal Garrett and Roy Torrington were always in charge of their game against C Millar. The visitors could only win 1 of the first 10 ends and even though they picked up a count of 5 shots on the 5th end the Braid men still held a 10 shot advantage. The Ballymena men continued to play the better bowls and 5 shots on the 15th end saw them increase their lead to 14 shots. The Braid men took their foot off the gas but they had done all the hard work during the earlier stages of the game and in the end they went on claim victory by 28 shots to 19.
Geoff Padgett, Jimmy Larkin, Ivan Lynn and Chris Wilson took on a Larne rink skipped by the experienced D Snoddy on rink 4. The Braid men took some time to settle down and it was visitors who had the better of the opening exchanges and with 9 ends played they lead by 13 shots to 1. As the game progressed the Braid men finally found some form and over the next 9 ends they cut the arrears to only a single shot and give themselves a chance of victory. Unfortunately the Ballymena rink could not finish off the job as the Larne rink scored 3 singles over the remaining ends to claim victory by 19-16. Ballymena Juniors travel to Belmont next Saturday