The final stages of the Canada Life International Manx Championship were played at Peel Bowling Club on Sunday afternoon. 

The qualifying rounds took place the previous day with 78 entries this year, a good increase on 2023 boosted by over 20 from the host club alone. 

As is always the case there were high-profile casualties on the Saturday with the draw played down to 16, the target being to navigate safely through the early rounds to reach finals day. 

Losing out at the quarter-final stage were Matthew Quirk (Onchan) 12-21 to John Kennish (South Ramsey). Two Marown men faced off as Colin Kelly looked to add to his seven championship wins with a 21-18 victory over Paul Dunn.  

In the other half of the draw, it was a southern battle as Dean Kinley (Castletown) displayed good form to beat previous finalist Trevor Quayle (Port St Mary) 21-17.  

South Ramsey’s Jordan Cain, having come through a tough last-16 game against Peter Slinger, couldn’t get the better of the current holder Neil Withers (Marown) as the latter prevailed 21-14. 

The first semi-final looked to be a blockbuster between Kennish and Kelly, and had been the final of the Manx Championship on five previous occasions, with the former having won all five.  

With the score tied at 7-7, Kennish shifted up a couple of gears to see the game out by scoring eight doubles, while keeping Kelly down to two doubles early in the game as he booked his place in the final with a 21-11 win. 

The other semi saw Withers get off to a good start to build up a 10-1 lead, quickly extended to 15-2.  

Kinley started to get a foothold as he closed the deficit to six chalks at 10-16, only for Withers to finish the match off with five chalks to seal a 21-10 win and take his place in the final for a second successive year. 

The final got underway with over 70 spectators still in attendance who were treated to a match that had it all.  

With the jack cleared off the green by Withers on the first end, Kennish had a game plan of heading for the corners but forfeited the jack on more than one occasion after sending the block off the green, with Withers preferring a mark over the middle.  

The South Ramsey man looked like he could run away with it early on as he built up a five-chalk lead at 8-3. Withers responded to win four of the next five ends, scoring three doubles to take the lead at 10-9. 

This started a pattern of both finalists going on mini-runs as a change in tactics saw Kennish pick up two doubles to re-take the lead 13-10. The Marown man hit back with six chalks over four ends to lead 16-13. 

Kennish got his nose in front once more to lead by a solitary chalk at 17-16 by the 24th end, with both players taking out their own bowl when playing through to go two down. 

As the final approached the business end, two-time Manx Champion Withers dug deep to score a single followed by a two to be the first man to be one end away from victory at 19-17.  

Three successive singles on a longer mark from Kennish got him one good bowl away from victory at 20-19, but a single from Withers - clipping off Kennish’s lead bowl then connecting with the jack - tied the score at 20-20. 

The tension had built up nicely for the final end and what an end this proved to be, as Withers played a great lead bowl just over a foot from the jack. Kennish left his lead bowl a yard short, with Withers beating his first bowl to count for two and doing everything he could to win the game.  

Showing no sign of any pressure, Kennish changed his peg to play a superb reaching bowl, sitting out Withers closest bowl to rest next to the jack and seal a 21-20 win and with it his 12th Manx Championship in a thrilling finish to the game. 

This success was his first title win at Peel, leaving Castletown and Ballaugh as the only (current) greens he hasn’t picked up a Manx Championship on. All the other greens on the island have been ticked off, with Noble’s Two green being the only one he has won two championships on as he continues to break his own records.  

Remarkably, Kennish has never been beaten in the final of the Manx Championship. 

The presentation was made by association competition committee member Steve Moore, who introduced IoMCCGBA president Michele Cubbon to present the prizes. 

In his speech, Kennish thanked the association for running the competition, reserving special praise for the team who look after the Peel green which was playing and running superbly, with an incredible turnaround in less than two years. 

Kennish and Withers will both compete in the Senior Individual merit at Pennfields BC, Staffordshire on Saturday, July 27, with Kennish also competing in the Champion of Champions at Owley Wood Recreation Club, Cheshire on Saturday, September 28.