Belfast Telegraph

Bowls triple going for gold as they take on the Boks

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland's Neil Booth woke up this morning in dreamland with the opportunity to end his distinguished Commonwealth Games career on the ultimate high.

Booth, plus countrymen Paul Daly and Neil Mulholland, had an early start in Glasgow in preparation for today's final of the men's triples championship at Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Club.

South Africa's Prince Neluode, Pierre Breitenbach and Bobby Donnelly are the opponents in the gold medal match scheduled to start at 8.45am.

Northern Ireland reached the final after defeating Wales yesterday 20-12 despite trailing 7-0 early on.

With Booth retiring from Commonwealth Games after the 2014 event, he is buzzing at the prospect of taking part in another decider, having won gold in the 1998 Games in Kuala Lumpur to go with bronze in Manchester in 2002 and a triples silver in Melbourne 2006.

The 45-year-old, skip of the triples team, said last night: "It's fairytale stuff to be in a final. We are so near, yet so far.

"We are guaranteed silver, but it's gold we want. It certainly would be a dream for me personally to go out with the big medal.

"The boys Paul and Neil have performed fantastically well in this tournament. They deserve gold."

The Old Bleach club man decided to pull the curtain down on a glittering international career after picking up his 80th cap at last month's Home Internationals.

With him set to move on, Daly and Mulholland have shown in Scotland that they can carry on the Commonwealth baton.

Belmont bowler Daly has won triples and fours bronze medals in the World Championships, but today he will claim his first Commonwealth gong.

And what a Games debut it has been for Lisnagarvey's Mulholland!

He has been in devastating form – and he still has the fours to conclude this week, again partnering Daly and Booth, with Ian McClure (Portrush) completing the line-up.

McClure and Whitehead's Marty McHugh were desperately unlucky not to feature in the pairs semi-final – they were beaten at the weekend by a final bowl winner by England's Andrew Knapper and Sam Tolchard in the quarter-finals.

"The lads didn't do anything wrong," said Northern Ireland Bowls team boss Jim Baker.

"The English duo got a few lucky breaks that turned the tie on its head. That's what happens in this game.

"It would be great if the boys could go on and win gold in the triples – it would certainly make up for that disappointment.

"I said before we left for Glasgow that this group of players had medals in them and I was right. We still have the singles and fours to come. There is no reason why we can't make an impact in those disciplines."

Team NI certainly started well in those competitions with Martin McHugh beating Papua New Guinea's Peter Juni 21-18 in the singles and Daly, Mulholland, McClure and Booth squeezing out an 11-10 victory over Zambia, skipped by George Chibew.

The Northern Ireland quartet needed a count of two on the last end to salvage victory after trailing 10-9. Zambia stormed out of the traps to take a 6-2 lead at five ends before Baker's fabulous boys mounted a comeback which ended with a morale-boosting victory.

"It was tight, but you have to work for anything you get at this level," said Baker.

"It's good to get early points on the board.

"The win sets us up for what will be a crucial day as we face Cook Island and Jersey."

While there was much to smile about for the men bowlers yesterday, there was disappointment for Catherine McMillen as her medal aspirations came to an abrupt halt.

The 33-year-old Divis player, playing in her first Commonwealth Games, did fantastically well to reach the knockout stages of the ladies singles and her hopes soared following an impressive quarter-final win over Welsh woman Caroline Taylor. That was as good as it got though for the Craigavon lady.

McMillen's gold medal hopes were dashed when she crashed to a 21-8 defeat to New Zealand's experienced Jo Edwards in yesterday's early morning semi-finals.

McMillen managed to win only five of the 14 ends, but still there was much to play for in the evening when she competed for bronze against South Africa's Colleen Piketh.

The Northern Ireland competitor made a solid start but then Piketh took over, winning 21-10, leading McMillen to ponder on back to back defeats, but only also a valuable learning experience.

"I struggled in both matches, there is no question about that, but I can learn from this and come back again," said McMillen.

Belfast Telegraph

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