St Mark’s Portadown were on cloud nine following their dramatic victory in the IIBA Club Championships final sponsored by The Galway Bay Hotel.
The Portadown side had already progressed to the semi final stages of the competition earlier in the season with victories over Christchurch (Western Zone), St Joseph’s Kildress (Mid Ulster Zone) and Cranagill (Armagh Zone).
They then played St Anthony’s, Craigavon (Armagh Zone) in the semi’s at Shaws Bridge, Belfast last Friday night followed by Loughenreagh (Northern Zone) in the final.
Both St Anthony’s and St Mark’s were going into this game full of confidence. On paper the Craigavon side had probably the stronger of the two teams however St Mark’s had been to the latter stages of the competition before and had the experience whereas St Anthony’s were new to this stage.
On Mat 1 St Marks’ D Culbert, J Robinson, L Douglas and J Richardson found it tough going against St Anthony’s rink of E Trainor, E McDonald, T Crawford and M Trainor. After eight ends it was 9-5 in favour of St Anthony’s, however the deficit could have been a lot more were it not for some great saving shots by the St Mark’s skip. On Mat 2 St Marks’ S Minish, Rach Cassells, G Culbert and P Beattie were always in control of their tussle with S Trainor, C Trainor, J Kelly and C Breen and ran out comfortable 9-4 winners.
Finally M Cassells, A Robinson, A Roberts and A Leckey were up against D McDonald, K Trainor, S Breen and D McCallion of St Anthony’s. Leckey’s rink were always in front and had a convincing 10-6 victory to leave the final score St Mark’s 24 St Anthony’s 19 putting the Portadown side into to the Irish club finals for the second time in three years.
With Northern zone club, Loughenreagh comfortably disposing of South & East Belfast club Sydenham in the other semi-final, St Marks knew they would have to be at the top of their game in order to beat their opponents.
Both teams started off slowly, knowing that a slip up could cost them and their club the chance to lift the much sought after trophy and at the half way stage there was nothing in the game.
Beattie’s rink were struggling against A Irwin of Loughenreagh, however Richardson and Leckey’s rinks were cancelling out the deficit leaving nothing in the game. End 5 was a turning point in the overall game, Leckey lifted a 3 when his opposition put a bowl over the fender, Beattie drew shot when she was 3 down on the mat and Richardson’s rink lifted a two pushing St Marks six shots ahead. This was the lead that the Portadown outfit needed as all three rinks then pushed on, scoring heavily in the remaining few ends. Final score St Marks 32 Loughenreagh 17.