Marty McHugh back on the scent of Irish Singles Championship crown

Marty McHugh
Marty McHugh

Having completed another success chapter with Whitehead, Marty McHugh will aim to end the outdoor bowls season in a blaze of glory by lifting the IBA National Singles Championship at Coleraine over the weekend.

The big Ireland international has already scribbled his name into the record books in this discipline, having previously lifted the crown on five occasions.

And, he’ll be hot favourite to book a slot in his seventh singles final when he lines out against relatively unknown, Dave Kenny, from the Aer Lingus club in Dublin.

“You can take nothing for granted in this game. Anyone who reaches the last four does it on merit,” said McHugh, a member of the Whitehead team clinched the NIBA Division One title for the sixth time.

“I remember playing against him at junior level, but that wasn’t yesterday!

“I’ll approach the game the way I go into every game. It will be a battle, but it would be great to get back into the final, so that’s a massive incentive.”

McHugh and the Irish singles title were inseparable for a time. He picked up the trophy four years on the bounce - from 2003-06 - a feat that will probably never be bettered. He was then back on the winners’ rostrum in 2013.

McHugh, who won the NIBA singles for a staggering seventh time last month, certainly didn’t let his first appearance in the final - a defeat in 2001 by Jeremy Henry, who now wears the Australian jersey - affect his ambitions.

“It seems like a lifetime ago,” he adds.

“I had a great little run in the singles with the four final wins. In fact, I went on to lift the British title in 2003 and the following year.

“But this is a new challenge. I don’t know a lot about my semi final opponent, but I’ll be giving him my full respect.”

The other semi final tie features Dunbarton’s Peter Convery, the Private Greens League champion, against Nicky McCaw, who lifted the Provincial crown for the first time.

Meanwhile, in a season that promised to much, but delivered so little, Ballymena’s Stephen Shields, Graham Wilson and Andy Morrison will be looking to finish on a high in the national triples.

Following a disappointing PGL league campaign, the Sky Blues are still smarting from their IBA Senior Cup final defeat by Dunbarton -- they tossed away a 25 shots lead over the final five ends!

At least Morrison and his colleagues will have an opportunity of bringing some silverware to the club.

However, Gareth Pierpoint, Eamon Carruth and Robbie Maher from St James’s Gate, will have other ideas when they clash in the semi final. The winners will face either Mark’s Wilson’s Cookstown combination or the NIBA champs from Portadown, skipped by Richard McMullan.

Ballymena, in fact, will be on the scent of a double dose of glory because John Nicholl, Rod Coleman, Jimmy Hodges and Roy Torrington will contest the Over-55 fours semi final against the Leinster rink skipped by former Ireland international Paul Smyth.

Ballymoney’s Gary Kelly has the chance to enhance his reputation at national level when he skips his Ballymoney side of Aaron Tennant, Aaron Walker and Alan Paul in the semi final of the fours.

Kelly has already paraded the singles, junior singles and pairs trophies in previous years.

But if he is to add the fours title to his array of honours, he’ll do it the hard way because the Ballymoney boys face a daunting semi final outing against Matthew Hastings, Thomas Cannavan, Graham McKee and Robert Hastings, from the NIBA champions, Bangor.

The semi finals will get under way at Lodge Road tomorrow morning with the finals scheduled for Saturday.

IBA National Championships

Semi finals: Open singles: D Kenny (Aer Lingus) v M McHugh (Whitehead); P Convery (Dunbarton) v N McCaw (Ballymoney).