Local bowlers made history on Friday with Neil Withers winning the men’s main festival competition, beating Matthew Quirk in an all-Manx final, while Matthew’s sister Rachel lifted the women’s trophy.
This is the first time that Manx players have won both the men’s and women’s June titles and also the first time we have had a brother and sister in both finals - it truly was a red letter day for the local game.
It’s hard to try and put into words how magnificent both these feats are and all three players performed magnificently all week. Indeed as the final bowl of the day was played it left a lump in my throat as I reflected for a moment on what they had all achieved.
In the first all-Manx final since 1991 Neil Withers (Marown) had just enough to see off the challenge of rising star Matthew Quirk (Onchan) 21-18 in a game of the highest standard. The bowling was simply superb in a final of such magnitude and you could tell how much it meant to both players with every bowl that they sent.
I cannot tell you how made up I am for Withers and I can only guess how much this title means to him, but spare a thought for Quirk. He played his part magnificently and whilst he will feel gutted for falling just short, he shouldn’t. He should be incredibly proud for what he achieved over the week beating some of the biggest names in the game.
The final was finally poised early on but from 13 across Withers got ahead and stayed there, giving himself some breathing space as he moved into a 18-13 lead.
Quirk then rallied and picked up another point before a cruel bit of luck in the favour of the Marown man saw him trail 20-14.
While Withers may have got the rub of the green to make that two, this victory was far from lucky and he deserves every accolade afforded him as despite his opponent picking up two quick twos the 37-year-old Marown man held his nerve to finish off what had been a sensational week of bowling.
From the moment both lads stepped onto the green on finals day they did themselves and the island proud and their form in the quarter and semi-finals was superb as they saw off the challenge of a lot of pre-tournament favourites.
Withers began his campaign on the day with a 21-16 win over the hotly tipped Matthew Gilmore (West Kirby) and followed this up with a dominant display beating the charismatic Callum Wraight (Castlefields) 21-15.
Quirk had an equally tough route to the final seeing off last year’s winner Robbie Fitzpatrick (Tixall) 21-16 before putting in a great performance beating John Bailey (Castlefields) 21-13.
In the preceding women’s final Rachel Quirk (Mooragh Park) put in a masterful display to defeat odds-on favourite Pat McGuirk (Tottington Cons) 21-15.
After initially dropping three early points to trail 9-6 Quirk moved through the gears and sprinted into a 16-9 lead and from there she never looked back as she saw out the biggest game of her life with style and focus.
I am struggling to even begin to put into words how proud I am of Rachel and can’t even begin to imagine how proud Kevin and Rosemary Quirk are of both of their children.
Quirk was mesmerising all day and no more so than in her semi-final where she was just brilliant beating Debbie Farmer (Sheffield) 21-14. She wasn’t alone on finals day with two other locals contributing to what must be the most successful day in Manx bowls history as Janet Monk (Mooragh Park) and Jo Smith (Onchan) just lost out in the quarter-finals.
The previous day also saw some spectacular bowling in the tourism competitions with Martin Gilpin (Kings Arms) beating Steve Baskerville (Knutsford) 21-19 in a thrilling men’s final and Maureen Lyons (West Derby Recs) beating Janet Monk (Mooragh Park) 21-12 to claim the women’s tourism title.
The consolation competitions again attracted good entries and the standard was of the highest calibre with Kez Smith (Crossgates) beating John Rawlinson 21-12 in the men’s final and Val Young (Moorfield) winning the women’s competition beating Wendy Allen (Castlefileds) 21-16.
As ever the doubles competitions proved extremely popular with both locals and visitors alike and the open doubles is fast becoming one of the jewels in the festival crown with all 64 places being taken within minutes of being made available.
September’s runners up Wayne Ditchfield (St Bernards) and Callum Wraight (Castlefields) again fell at the final hurdle going down 11-6 to Richie Goddard (Castlefields) and Carl Fielding (Grenville Arms).
In the men’s doubles Stuart Meddings (Tanorth in Arden) and Ian Nicholson (Kings Arms) claimed the win in the closest final of the week beating Graham Hurst (Lower Hopton) and Chris Barton (Quarry Vikings) 11-10.
The women’s doubles saw Rachel Quirk taste her first bit of success of the week pairing up with Alexis Lunn-Gadd (Morton House) to beat Margaret Tasker (Port St Mary) and Marjorie Hayes (Hightown) 11-8.
The mixed doubles was a popular event with Maurice Sweetman (Crescent) and Daisy Weaver (Castlefields) beating Colin Scorah (Woodlands) and Margaret Tasker, in her second doubles final, 9-5 in a lively final encounter.
The Visit IoM flyer provides the last chance to taste glory in a bowls-packed festival week with Peter Mole (Tanworth in Arden) beating Stuart Thomas (Llanfair) 9-4 in the final.
Credit must again go to Steve Moore and his team who work tirelessly in conjunction with the Department of Economic Development to produce on one of the premiere bowls competitions in the crown green calendar.
I would also like to praise all of the greenkeepers who ensured that all of the playing surfaces were in excellent condition and were a credit to themselves and the island.
I’m trying to find a way to sum up the week’s bowling and finish my article but there were so many plus points for locals that it is hard to even know where to start.
At the end of the day though Friday belongs to Rachel and Neil - you did it guys. This is your moment, live for this moment.