Belfast Telegraph

Barbara Cameron's dream comes true at her fifth games

The long wait is over. Barbara Cameron is a Commonwealth Games medal winner after 20 years of trying.

Steven Beacom

It was a close run thing, but the 52-year-old Ballymena bowler and 50-year-old Mandy Cunningham from Belfast held their nerve in a gripping play-off yesterday against Jersey to win bronze in the Women's Pairs competition.

The match went to the wire with Northern Ireland's dynamic duo defeating Lindsey Greechan and Katie Nixon 15-14 after 18 entertaining ends at Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Club.

For the younger Jersey girls, there was bitter disappointment as they failed in their bid to win a first Commonwealth Games medal for their nation since 1990.

Barbara could empathise with that, but having missed out in Victoria 1994, Kuala Lumpur 1998, Manchester 2002 and Melbourne 2006, Glasgow 2014 turned out to be her city and her time.

"I've been close before and to finally win a medal is a dream come true. You never give up on your dreams," said Cameron, providing a lesson that many younger sportsmen and sportswomen could learn from.

"I have a pendant that was given to me by my brother that says 'Imagine Believe Achieve'."

And that's exactly what she did.

Speaking about the drama of yesterday's battle, Barbara said: "It was superb, it was great to be involved in that match. It's probably the toughest game in the tournament because the opposition are in pieces now.

"If you were in the final you were guaranteed a medal, gold or silver. You always want to win the tournament but to win this game and come away with a medal is special."

For anyone who witnessed it, the bronze medal play-off will live long in the memory. Showing real intent, Jersey claimed three shots in the first end, and led 9-5 at the halfway stage but the experienced Northern Ireland pair found inspiration in the 10th end, taking four shots to level the scores after a brilliant final bowl by Cameron.

From there it was nip and tuck with Cunningham showing her quality as the lead exchanged hands until the 16th end when Northern Ireland inched ahead 14-13.

They were looking good to go further in front until Greechan came up with a wonderful play to earn a shot and take the entertaining contest into the final end.

You could feel the tension in the stands, let alone on the green.

This was it, all square and all to play for. A medal for the winners. Nothing for the losers.

Jersey were in control of the head early on, but in keeping with the see-saw battle there was to be one last twist... and fittingly it came from the woman waiting two decades for her big moment.

With Jersey holding the shot they needed to triumph, Cameron had two bowls left to turn it around. She only needed one, with her bowl deflecting off in and nestling right beside the jack to give Northern Ireland the shot.

Greechan had one final throw of the dice but she failed to connect and our Cunningham and Cameron had won a dramatic semi-final, becoming bronze goddesses for Team NI.

What a finish.

Many might see bowls as a gentle, relaxing game played only by pensioners, but their impressions would have changed watching the fiercely competitive matches in Glasow over the past week.

The atmosphere has been electric with the Scottish doing so well and the games have been high quality, exciting affairs, none more so than the victory for Mandy and Barbara over Nixon and Greechan who were left to wonder what might have been.

Cunningham, who bowls for the Ewarts club, was overjoyed, even more so for her partner than herself.

"The bowl that won the game from Barbara, I'll never forget it," said Mandy.

"We had looked at all the scenarios and we thought just go for it because you're never going to get this opportunity again and it worked. I'm totally in shock, I'm more delighted for Barbara because this was her fifth Games and she desperately wanted a medal so I'm more emotional for Barbara than for myself."

Yesterday was the final day of the bowls competition and with the girls delivering, it means Northern Ireland will go home from the Glasgow greens with a bronze and a silver won by the Men's Triples of Paul Daly, Neil Mulholland and Neil Booth.

It's a fine return when you consider the bowling standard in Glasgow is akin to World Championship level.

Belfast Telegraph

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