Ireland popped the champagne following their impressive display in the 2014 World Short Mat Bowls Championships at the National Sports Centre, Cardiff.
Artie Rice’s team returned from Wales with three of the four titles on offer – singles, pairs and triples. And, they were only inches from completing a ‘full house’ as the Mid Ulster rink of Colin Hogg, Glen Smith, Dayne Jordan and Mark Wilson, lost out on a heart-breaking tie-break to the Welsh rink skipped by Nick Evans after the game ended 8-8.
But what a weekend it turned out to be for Oriel’s Kevin Conroy, who became the first Irish winner of the world singles title since Colm McHugh’s success back in 2008.
The husband and wife combination, Joe and Pauline Beattie picked up the pairs championship, while Mid Ulster’s Willie Lennox, Clark Hill and Alan Paul roared to success in the triples, finishing the series with an unblemished record.
Indeed, Ireland just missed out on matching their best ever performance in the competition when they achieved a ‘clean sweep’ back in in 2000.
“We’re thrilled with the victory,” said Cookstown High School’s Paul. “We got off to a great start on the opening day with wins over the Isle of Man, Scotland and Belgium.
“And, we maintained that form the following day, beating England and Wales. We then beat Sweden to top the group.
“Even though the tournament was extended to three days it was still tough going. But it was great to return home with three world titles.”
Lennon, Hill and Paul stormed to a 12-4 win over John Gladstone’s Welsh side in the semi final before they waltzed past the challenge of another Mike John (Wales) in the decider, winning 13-6.
Ireland’s other representatives in the triples, Billy Taaffe, Sean Trainor and Paddy Hanlon, finished in third place.
There was no hiding the jubilation after Conroy’s victory in the singles discipline.
He demolished the field, beating Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Belgium on the opening day. He followed up that with wins over England, Sweden and Scotland .
Conroy topped his section following victories over Wales and Isle of Man, that earned him a semi final showdown against his Ireland team mate John Quinn
The big Donegal man had to settle for second spot in his group, following a surprise defeat by Belgium. But it was Conroy who held his nerve when it mattered, scoring a hard-fought 12-7 win.
He went on to defeat Wales’ Luke Haddon 15-6 to win the title.
There was a similar scenario in the pairs championship when Armagh’s Joe and Pauline Beattie came up against James Mullan and Lorenzo Graham, from the North West zone.
The Beatties lost only one of their qualifying games, while Mullan and Graham tasted defeat on three occasion, but they still managed to nudge into the second spot in their section.
But they were out-bowled in the semi finals – the Armagh duo romped to a 16-6 victory. They then beat England’s Gareth Stanway 19-9 in the decider.
Although Hogg, Smith, Jordan and Wilson lost their final group game to Wales, it didn’t prevent them from claiming a semi final spot.
And, things looked even better coasted past the challenge of England, winning 12-7. The final against Wales’ Nick Evans developed into an intriguing with the score finishing level (8-8).
But it was Welsh skip to grabbed a last bowl winner, depriving Ireland of clean sweep of trophies.