Belmont right back in title mix with finish line on the horizon

The celebrations went on for some time at Dunbarton on Saturday night after the Senior Cup win over Ballymoney. The champagne even flowed on to the green!
The celebrations went on for some time at Dunbarton on Saturday night after the Senior Cup win over Ballymoney. The champagne even flowed on to the green!

Belmont have blasted their way back into the reckoning as the Private Greens League Division One title race reaches a climax.

Only two-and-a-half points separate the top four clubs, but significantly the East Belfast side and current champions, Dunbarton, have played one game less than Larne and Old Bleach.

It all points to a fascinating finale to the season, with Old Bleach, who led the table for most of the season, now reduced to outsiders.

Their first ever title success appears to have slipped from their grasp.

In fact, they tonight face a make or break meeting with Pickie at Randalstown.

Larne currently sit at the summit, having reeled in 76.5 points from their 16 starts. They are followed by Dunbarton - they are only half-a-point adrift - and Belmont, who are sitting on 74.5.

The Belfast team’s crucial midweek win at Ballymena, where they picked up a cool seven points, shot them right back into the frame.

“It look likes it’s going to be a great finish,” said Belmont’s former international Davy Hamilton.

“It was a massive win at Ballymena, one that keeps us on the tails of the leaders..

“But we face difficult final three matches. With have Old Bleach and Pickie at home before we finish the programme at Ards.

“Old Bleach looked to have it (the title race) wrapped up at one stage, but they hit a little slump in form, which has opened the door now to ourselves, Larne and Dunbarton.

“All we can do is take one game at a time. I’m sure there will be more twists and turns in this title race before it is over.”

Larne look to have the easiest run-in as they travel to an Ards side that looks destined for Division Two and Willowfield, who are also struggling at the wrong end of the table.

Dunbarton’s proposed midweek meeting with Ewarts - another team that will almost certainly spiral through the relegation trap door - was postponed because of a flooded green at Gilford.

It means they now face a gut-churning 24 hours, starting with Saturday’s visit to Ulster Transport before they roll out the welcome mat to Ewarts on Sunday afternoon.

Dunbarton, of course, go into the double header in the best possible shape, having secured the PGL and IBA Senior Cups last weekend.

If it’s tight at the top in the PGL, Whitehead go into their final game in the NIBA Division One title race having already been crowned champions.

They’ll parade the trophy ahead of their home game against Banbridge, having a 9.5 points cushion over Bangor, the out going champions.

Most of the interest is at the other end of the table with ailing Lurgan set to make the trip back to Division Two, but there will be an almighty scrap between Balmoral and Carrick as to who will join them.

Ironically, Carrick make the trip down the M1 to face Lurgan, while Balmoral - title winners back in 2012 - entertain a Portadown side that was in the title reckoning for some time.

Up in the Provincial Senior League, Ballymoney require only a point at the City of Derry to guarantee them the title for the third successive year.

Fixtures

NI Private Greens League Division One: Dunbarton v Ulster Transport, Pickie v Ballymena, Belmont v Old Bleach, Larne v Ards, Ewarts v Willowfield.

NIPGL Division Two: Comber v Ballywalter, Cliftonville v Forth River, NICS v Hilden, Mossley v Salisbury.

NIPGL Division Three: Saintfield v Shorts, Belmont B v Knock, Ballymena B v Gallaher, North Belfast v Cavehill.

NIPGL Division Four: Malone v Dunbarton B, Ballymena C v Pickie B, Old Bleach B v Belmont C, Falls B v Larne B, Willowfield B v Downpatrick.

NIPGL Division Five: Ulster Transport B v Comber B, Forth River B v Cliftonville B, Hilden B v Belmont D, Ards B v Albert Foundry, Cavehill B v Mossley B, Shaftesbury B v Ewarts B.

Northern Ireland Bowling Association Division One: Divis v Lisnagarvey, Whitehead v Banbridge, Balmoral v Portadown, Lurgan v Carrick, Dundonald v Bangor.

NIBA Division Two: Dungannon v Curran, Bessbrook v Londonderry Park, Donaghadee v Castle, Sydenham v Whitehead B.

NIBA Division Three: St Stephen’s v Musgrave, Ormeau v Markethill, Lisnagarvey B v Clarendon

NIBA Division Four: Banbridge B v Ulster Maple Leaf, BETS v Newcastle, Finaghy v North Down, Portadown v Queen’s Island.

NIBA Division Five: Windsor v Antrim, Castle B v Lurgan B, Lagan Valley v 1st Ballymacarrett.

NIBA Division Six: Curran B v Musgrave B, McQuiston Memorial v Divis B, 58th Old Boys v 9th Old Boys.

NI Provincial Bowling Association Senior League: City of Derry v Ballymoney, Portglenone v Portrush, Ballycastle v Dunluce, Letterkenny v Limavady, Coleraine v Cookstown.