IRELAND boss Roy McCune hailed his young squad after their record-breaking display in the British Isles Under-18 Mixed Championships at Stanley Bowls Club.
The youthful Ireland group scooped their first gold medal at this level, won by Jamie Browne, Jamie Watson and Stephen Coleman in the triples, while 12 year old Reece Millar finished with bronze in the singles.
It was a tremendous showing against the cream of the Home Nations by such a young panel of players. “It was an unbelievable performance by the squad, way beyond all our expectations,” said McCune. “The triple turned in a magnificent display . . . cool heads on young shoulders. They won two of their games on tie-breaks. They held their nerve when it mattered most.
“Young Reece was also magnificent. He’s the youngest player ever to win a medal in the four year history of this tournament. It was a great overall performance – one we can be proud of.
“This tournament is very much a learning curve for our kids. They will gain an enormous amout of experience competing at this level. Winning medals is a massive bonus.
“You have to take into account that the other Home Nations have a massive player base to choose from, so to come away with medals in that sort of company is an astonishing performance.”
Brown, Watson and Coleman ended the series unbeaten. They roared to a 7-2 opening set win against Jode McCarthy, Nathan Salmon and Ben Coake, of Wales, but lost the second by a similar score. The Irish claimed the all import winner in the tie break.
In their second match against Edward Elmore, Matthew Roy and Noah Cummings, of England, Brown Watson and Coleman scored a straight sets success.
It mean that Ireland went in against England (2) in a winner takes all final outing – they were also unbeaten.
Sarah Grove, Lloyd Sabatini and Ryan Atkins won the opening set 5-3, but the battling Irish edged home in the second, with a single shot success (7-6).
They then grabbed the winner in the tie break to kick off scenes of raw jubilation.
Young Millar displayed great tenacity in the singles. Even though he lost his opening set against Wales’ Shane Hill (11-6), he battle back to level, winning 9-4 before delivering the important bowl in the tie break.
Millar was then totally outbowled by England’s Ryan Atkins in his next game. But he didn’t let that result affect him.
He may have lost the opening set (10-4) to England’s Edward Elmore, but he bounced straight back level matters with a similar score. Lurgan kid Millar then showed nerves of steel to plunder a winner and grab a bronze medal.
Singles: R Millar (Ireland) bt S Hill (Wales) 6-11, 9-4, 4-0. R Millar lost to R Atkins (England) 1-11, 1-12. Third/fourth place play-off: R Millar bt E Elmore (England) 4-10, 10-4, 1-0.
Pairs: R Millar, C Watson (Ireland) lost J Miekle, K Clinton (England) 4-9, 2-16. R Millar, C Watson lost to J Hancock, T Jones (Wales) 7-14, 7-6, 0-1. R Millar, C Watson lost to R Videgrain, C Staples (Channel Islands) 7-9, 11-2, 0-1.
Triples: J Brown, J Watson, S Coleman (Ireland) bt J McCarthy, N Salmon, B Coake (Wales) 7-2, 2-7, 1-0. J Brown, J Watson, S Coleman bt E Elmore, M Ray, N Cummings (England) 7-6, 7-5. J Brown, J Watson, S Coleman bt S Grove, L Sabatini, R Atkins (England) 3-5, 7-6, 1-0.
Fours: C Watson, J Brown, J Watson, S Coleman (Ireland) lost to BJ Byles, S Groves, L Sabatini C Cinato (England) 6-9, 6-7. C Watson, J Brown, J Watson, S Coleman bt J Hancock, J McCarthy, N Salmon, B Cloake 2-12, 12-7, 1-0. C Watson, J Brown, J Watson, S Coleman lost to A Rees, K Thomas, J Phillips, G Parr (Wales) 10-4, 5-8, 0-1.