Ballymena ace Barbara Cameron crowned a distinguished international lawn bowls career when she steered Ewarts star to the bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games lawn bowls women’s pairs at the Kelvingrove Centre in Glasgow yesterday.
After the Northern Ireland duo had destroyed Jersey’s hopes of a first-ever Commonwealth Games medal at bowls, Cameron, who is 52, confirmed that she had decided to quit, and that, like Old Bleach star Neil Booth, she was retiring from international bowls.
Tears were shed on both sides, as Cunningham and Cameron celebrated, and their opponents, Katie Nixon and Lindsey Greechan, who were coached by the legendary Anglo Scot Andy Thomson, sobbed in dismay and disbelief.
In a match that could have gone either way, there was never more than three shots separating the two pairs, but Jersey seemed to have the upper hand and Northern Ireland were only in front twice before the last end got underway – 12-10 after 23 ends, and 14-13 after 16.
The pairs and fours in the Games are played to 18 ends rather than the 21 ends in the traditional game, and, inevitably it seemed, the scores were tied at 14-14 when the decisive 18th end got underway.
Nixon put two bowls on the jack, and when Cameron missed with her first attempt to save, the Channel Islanders were beginning to celebrate – but Cameron had other ideas.
Her second bowl was delivered with attacking weight, and at first appeared to be fractionally wide, but it glanced off a short Jersey bowl, and rolled gently in for shot, leaving skip Greechan with a big problem, which she was unable to solve.
Northern Ireland thus won, 15-14, and added a prized bronze medal to the silver collected by Paul Daly, Neil Mulholland and Neil Booth last weekend.
“You never give up on your dreams,” Cameron said with a smile, “But I feel as if I’m dreaming, and that someone is going to wake me up. I was given a pendant by my brother that was inscribed with the words, ‘Imagine, Believe, Achieve’!”
“It’s a good time to bow out,” Cunningham piped up. “Barbara says she’s retiring, but we will try to convince her to change her mind – but, seriously, I’m as delighted for her as I am for myself.”
Asked how she and Cameron intended to celebrate, Cunningham, who celebrated her 50th birthday in Jersey in June by winning the British Isles women’s outdoor singles title, replied: “I’m from Northern Ireland - How do you think I’m going to celebrate? – By getting drunk, hopefully!”