Commonwealth Games: Northern Ireland bowls trio enjoy a silver lining
The Northern Ireland Men's Triples Bowls Team were disappointed, but not distraught.
Neil Booth, Paul Daly and Neil Mulholland woke up at the crack of dawn yesterday morning with Commonwealth Games gold on their minds, only to be beaten 19-10 in the final by a canny South African trio at Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre.
Never ahead in the match, Booth, Daly and Mulholland did not consistently produce the form that had taken them to the decider.
At times like this, it can be best to seek silver linings.
The Northern Ireland boys found a few... the colour of the medals hanging round their necks for a start, the feeling that defeat in the Triples could drive them and Ian McClure to top spot on the podium in the Fours and the belief of skip Neil Booth, retiring from the international scene after the Games, that the future of bowls at the highest level in his country is in safe hands.
Playing at the Kelvingrove Centre, two miles west of Glasgow city centre, in a match with so much riding on it must have been quite something too.
The Centre is situated next to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and overlooked by the equally spectacular Victorian edifice of Glasgow University.
It's just a pity Northern Ireland didn't have the result to go with the surroundings.
The final was tight early on until South Africa (Prince Nelounde, Petrus Breitenbach and Bobby Donnelly) took control going from 3-2 ahead after five ends to 14-3 up with 11 ends gone.
To their credit lead bowler Daly, second Mulholland and skip Booth mounted an impressive comeback, to the appreciation of the crowd, which included someone dressed as a smurf, reducing the arrears to 14-10 with four of the 18 scheduled ends left.
A stunning victory was suddenly possible but veteran South African skip Donnelly showed his quality and experience by stemming the tide with the Rainbow Nation team eventually running out 19-10 victors.
Booth, who has now won one gold, two silvers and a bronze at the Games, was full of praise for Daly and Mulholland collecting their first medals.
He said: "These guys are super players and they will go on to win many more medals. I've been around for some time, so it's time to give some of the younger cubs a go. We have a conveyor belt of talent coming through.
"You're always disappointed with silver or bronze but we can be very proud and hold our heads high. We still have the fours to go and can end on a high. I was telling the boys, 'It's the last time I'll play at a quarter to nine on a Monday morning'," added Booth with a smile.
On the comeback from 14-3 down, Booth explained: "We dug in and we got it back to 14-10 and had a chance to turn a bowl out for three or four shots which would have got us right back in the game and put the pressure on them.
"But I narrowly missed it and they drew for another shot and that sort of killed the game at that point. It was nice to make a battle of it though."
Daly, in his second Games after appearing in Delhi four years ago, commented: "We're disappointed not to have won the gold but a silver medal is still a great achievement."
Mulholland, so solid in his Games debut, added: "The objective coming over to Glasgow was to get a medal and see what colour it would be. We couldn't send Neil out with a gold this time but maybe it will come in the Fours."
In the Fours today, Northern Ireland play the Cook Islands and Jersey, having started their campaign with an 11-10 win over Zambia on Sunday.
In the singles, Team NI's Martin McHugh was up against New Zealand's Shannon McIlroy last night and he sadly lost heavily 21-7.
Meanwhile, our women's triples team of Catherine McMillen, Jennifer Dowds and Donna McCloy lost 18-12 to England's Sophie Tolchard, Ellen Falkner and Sian Gordan.
They play Scotland this morning while Northern Ireland's Mandy Cunningham and Barbara Cameron begin their challenge in the pairs against Malaysia.