MEMBERS of Ballymoney Bowling Club are preparing for their second appearance in the Irish Cup final in the space of three years - a remarkable achievement for a club that regularly punches above its weight.
The grand climax to a tough journey will take place on Saturday at Belmont in Belfast against Gilford club, Dunbarton, beginning at 2 p.m.
Ballymoney, who had a home game against neighbours, Ballycastld, at the weeknd admit they are going in as underdogs, but as captain, William McCaw, prepares his team for what will be a keenly-contested game, he is quietly confident.
“We have a stronger panel of players this time and we’ll certainly be giving Dunbarton a run for their money,” he told the Times.
In their last appearance in the Irish Senior Cup final in 2010, Ballymoney lost to Ballymena and they don’t want a repeat of that this time round.
But Dunbarton will be a tough nut to crack.
They are one of the most respected clubs in the bowling scene throughout Ireland and are fortunate to have an excellent clubhouse with a fully licenced bar, large hall, home and away changing rooms and kitchen facilities.
The club has come a long was from its opening in 1955, when it was built by the local mill to provide a recreation outlet for its staff and workers, but it still plays an important role in the Gilford community, both for those locals that play bowls and those that like to watch and socialise.
Ballymoney’s facilities would almost certainly match that of anyone in the country, but that’s not what the focus is on for the next few days.
That will be concentrated on the playing surface with hopefully a positive outcome.
The Toon’s first game was a difficult away game against Aer Lingus in Dublin. The local lads had to play on a synthetic pitch for the first time and to overcome that obstacle plus getting the edge on a formidable team said much for their character.
The second game was Against Ulster Transport - again another away game. There then followed wins against Dundonald, Divis and, in the semi-final, against old rivals Coleraine.
While the semi-final success was sweet, the focus is very much on the final and all local bowlers will wish Ballymoney all the best for Saturday.