Bowls: Champion Craig gives perfect ripost to Irish selectors
Big Clifford Craig may have been left out of the Ireland team for the 2011 Home International Series at Stanley Indoor Bowls Club in March, but he responded in the proper manner by winning the AIIB fours Championship at the Watson Stadium.
Craig, joined by Michael Bickerstaff, Ryan Craig and John Boyd — he was also axed from the Irish side — battled out a tense one shot win (17-16) over Graham McKee’s County Antrim side. The victory, of course, guarantees Craig and his colleagues involvement in the British Isles Championships at Stanley. The Belfast side were forced to fend off a late revival to edge past the winning post.
Having established a 15-9 lead at 15 ends, McKee, joined by Darren Atkinson, Andrew Coleman and Aaron Patterson, levelled (16-16) on the 20th before Craig claimed the all-important winner.
“It was close call,” said Craig. “Fair play to the County Antrim boys, they came back at us over the last few ends to set up a tense finish. It could have gone either way. But we are delighted to get our hands on another Irish title.”
County Antrim’s Neil Booth and Marty McHugh beat Derek Smith and Ian McClure (Provincial Towns) 26-15 to win the pairs title.
Gary Kelly, however, gave the Ballymoney club something to cheer by winning the Under-25 singles following a 21-15 win over County Antrim’s Aaron Patterson.
Meanwhile, Donegal nudged their way into the Irish Indoor Bowling Association’s Women’s Inter-Zone final — but it took an extra end to shrug off the challenge of brave Monaghan at Raphoe on Saturday.
Rachel McDonnell grabbed the all important winning shots to take Donegal through to their fourth final. But the chances of improving their record in the tournament — they are still looking for their first McElroy Cup success – appear anything but healthy as they will line out against a rampant Armagh on Saturday, February 12 — the venue has yet to be confirmed.
The five-time winners were again a class apart at Dromore Cathedral, where they dismantled West Down (59-36).
Armagh won on five rinks – May Cassells, Daphne Marshall, Elizabeth Smyth, Flo McNally and Paul Beattie – providing the platform for another runaway victory.
Angela Cannaway defeated Catherine McMillen, depriving the visitors of a clean sweep.
AIIB National finals: D Atkinson, A Coleman, A Patterson, G McKee (CAIBC) 16 M Bickerstaff, R Craig, J Boyd, C Craig (BIBC) 17.
Pairs: D Smith, I McClure (PTIBC) 14 N Booth, M McHugh (CAIBC) 26.
Triples: JR Nicholl, M Nutt, T Robinson (CAIBC) 9 S Gibson, J McCullough, M Merritt (BIBC) 18.
Junior singles: G Kelly (PTIBC) 21 A Patterson (CAIBC) 15.
IIBA Women’s Inter-Zone semi finals: West Down 36 Armagh 59; Donegal 57 Monaghan 75 (Donegal won on extra end).
Ladies Plate: Western 55 Lisburn 48; North Eastern 60 North West 62.