Bannside bowlers give town some cheer
There may have been heartbreak for Coleraine after losing out on the Irish League title on the final day of the season, but the town's bowlers got their PBA Senior Division campaign off to a sensational start with a thumping win over neighbours Portrush.
Although the football team was looking to end a 44-year drought - the one and only time they have won the Gibson Cup - it's been 24 years since the Bannsiders lifted Provincial bowls title, but on the evidence of their season opener, that may be about to change.
What made it even more significant was the fact the Portrush arrived at Lodge Road looking for a positive opening defence of a championship they lifted for the first time in five years.
Their title success last August broke a vice-like grip by Ballymoney, who had racked up six title victories since 2010. But Portrush were forced to leave empty-handed after suffering a 32-shot drubbing, which brought them down to earth with a bump.
"We just never got out of the traps," said Ian McClure, who recently returned from Australia after representing Northern Ireland in the Commonwealth Games.
"Coleraine played the big shots when it mattered. It's certainly a disappointing start and maybe an early wake-up call for us."
It was Ian Ross who did a large part of the damage by beating Jackie Smyth 31-14. But it was an impressive all-round performance by the Bannsiders with Victor Dallas, Russell Millar in Jim Calvin also claiming vital wins against Simon Colvin (23-18), Gary McCloy (20-12) and McClure (21-19).
Not to be outdone, Ballymoney also picked up seven points in what was a tricky opener against Dunluce at Bushmills.
Brian McAlary returned the most impressive card after skipping his rink to a 28-13 victory over Uel McKeeman's combination.
Gary Kelly, fresh from competing in Australia, battled out a 21-19 victory against Rodney Kane, while Alistair Steel and Willie McCaw finished the job by beating Willie McKeown (17-11) and Aaron Walker (26-20).
Results: Northern Ireland Private Greens League Division One: Ewarts 62 (1) Ballymena 91 (6), Ards 71 (6) Falls 70 (1), Larne 63 (1) Old Bleach 76 (6), Pickie 61 (2) Dunbarton 85 (5), Belmont 96 (6) Ulster Transport 52 (1).
NI Bowling Association Division One: Banbridge 110 (7) Divis 47 (0), Lisnagarvey 58 (1) Bangor 119, Balmoral 73 (1.5) Lurgan 81 (5.5), Whitehead 96 (7) Portadown 49 (0), Donaghadee 83 (5) Dundonald 72 (2).
NI Provincial Bowling Association Senior League: Cookstown 88 (6.5) Portglenone 59 (0.5), Coleraine 95 (7) Portrush 63 (0), Limavady 89 (6.5) Letterkenny 68 (0.5), Ballymoney 92 (7) Dunluce 63 (0).