Belfast Telegraph

Hastings sees straight fight again between champions and the Seasiders


By Alex Mills

Bangor's Robert Hastings believes it will be another straight fight to the finish between the Seasiders and Whitehead for the right to be crowned Northern Ireland Bowling Association Division One champions.

Both teams have been alarmingly consistent when it comes to league matters, having shared the crown a staggering 14 times since the millennium.

That domination continued when Whitehead paraded the trophy for the third successive season last August, but it really couldn't have been any closer.

Both teams approached the final day of the season unbeaten, with Whitehead scheduled to leave a calling card at Ward Park - a winner takes all scenario.

It was the East Antrim side that held their nerve when it mattered, not only claiming a narrow victory, but the Division One crown.

They'll embark on a new outdoor campaign today at their Ward Park base against a Balmoral team that battled relegation for most of last term.

Hastings his hoping for a positive start. "It will be tough enough, especially as the greens are still heavy, it's a pity the spell of good weather didn't come a bit sooner," he said.

"Balmoral are always a very capable side. But it's important to get off to a positive start.

"We were really unlucky we didn't complete the treble last season but, in the grand scheme of things, it was a great season having won the two cups."

If it was tight at the top in the NIBA, it was equally nail-biting in the race for the Private Greens League Division One title, where Dunbarton edged home by the skin of their teeth - pipping outgoing champions Belmont on the final day.

"We will obviously be public enemy number one as we are the champions. We'll be the scalp that every team wants, but it's something we can deal with," said Dunbarton's Myles Greenfield, whose team entertain Larne at Gilford today.

The Northern Ireland Provincial Association's league campaign doesn't start until April 28.

Th opening fixtures are as follows: Northern Ireland Bowling Association Division One: Dundonald v Divis, Portadown v Donaghadee, Lurgan v Whitehead, Bangor v Balmoral, Banbridge v Lisnagarvey.

Northern Ireland Private Greens League Division One: Ulster Transport v Ballymena, Belmont v Pickie, Dunbarton v Larne, Old Bleach v Ards v Falls.

Belfast Telegraph

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