BOWLS: Belmont preparing for Cookstown test in Irish Bowling Association’s Senior Cup

Action between Belmont and Ballymena at last weekend's NIPGL Championship Finals at Forth River Bowling Club
Action between Belmont and Ballymena at last weekend's NIPGL Championship Finals at Forth River Bowling Club

Having written themselves into the record books by winning the Irish Bowling Association’s Senior Cup five years on the bounce, Belmont will be looking to improve on their recent showings when they face Cookstown at Ballymena on Saturday.

The Private Greens League boys last lifted the crown back in 2007 – the final year of that fantastic run of success.

They approach their semi-final showdown as favourites to book a slot in the final against either Portrush or Ballymena in the final on August 27.

Belmont and Cookstown also collided in the tournament last season, with the Belfast team claiming a narrow victory. However, the experienced Davy Hamilton warns his team will be taking nothing for granted.

“It looks like we’ll have a full squad which is a bonus,” said Hamilton. “We played Cookstown last year in what was a a good close game.

“We managed to win it, but it was touch and go for a while. I would suspect it will be something similar this time.”

Belmont are in the best possible shape going into the match, having taken over at the top of the PGL Division One table.

They may be only half-a-point ahead of Dunbarton, but crucially, they still have a game in hand.

Ballymena at still very much in the equation. They are 10 points behind Dunbarton, but have played two games less than the Gilford boys.

“There will be plenty off twists and turns in the title race before finishes,” said Hamilton. “We won it on the final day of the season last season – and it could well go down to the last set of matches again. For now, we'll focus on the cup game. Cookstown are a good team – we’ll need to be at our best to beat them.”

Cookstown will be hoping to build on their recent Piggott Cup success – they defeated Coleraine in the final of a hotly contested affair.

“Reaching the IBA Cup final would be special,” said Cookstown’s Damien McElroy. “Regardless of the result, it has been a successful season for the club. We’ve already won the Piggott Cup – and the B team also lifted the Sutherland Cup following their win over Coleraine B.

“So we already have two pieces of silverware in the cabinet. It’s ironic that both teams will now contest IBA Cup semi finals – the B team due to face Ballymoney in the Junior Cup semi-final at Portrush.

“We are certainly looking forward to the challenge against Belmont. They are a top side, but on a neutral venue, anything can happen.

“Thankfully, we'll have a full squad available to travel to Ballymena.”

Meanwhile, Ballymena are looking bridge a five year gap when they meet Portrush at Ballymoney. The teams last met in the tournament back in 2010 with the PGL team progresssing to the final.

“When it gets to this stage, anything can happen,” said Ballymena’s Graham Wilson.

“We’ve had good wins over Mossley and Old Bleach over that past two rounds. Hopefully qe can keep that going.”

Irish Bowling Assocition Senior Cup semi finals: Portrush v Ballymena (at Ballymoney); Cookstown v Belmont (at Ballymena).

Irish Bowling Association Intermediate Cup semi finals: Shaftesbury v Ards (at Belmont); Bessbrook v Belmont B (at Lurgan).

Irish Bowling Association Junior Cup semi finals: Ballymoney v Cookstown (at Portrush); Ballymena C v Belmont C (at Larne).

Northern Ireland Private Greens League Division One: NICS v Dunbarton, Ewarts v Ulster Transport, Mossley v Larne.

NIPGL Division Two: Willowfield v Salisbury, Ballymena B v Cliftonville, Falls v Forth River.

NIPGL Division Three: Cavehill v Comber, North Belfastr v Downpatrick, Saintfield v Pickie B, Shorts v Knock.

NIPGL Division Four: Dunbarton B v Willowfield B, Ards B v Ewarts B, Larne B v Falls B.

NIPGL Division Five: Albert Foundry v Cavehill B, Ulster Transport B v Hilden B, Cliftonville B v Belfast, Forth River B v Mossley B.