It was a monumental week at the top of Isle of Man Bank Men’s division one with second placed Onchan A throwing down the gauntlet to league leaders Marown on Monday with arguably their best performance of their ten year reign as champions, before they went head to head on Wednesday. In the first of a double set of fixtures the champions continued their charge with a 10-0 demolition of Castletown A at the Crofts to cut the gap at the top to just four points.
They say when the going gets tough, the tough get going and this was certainly true of Onchan on Monday night. Few teams leave the Towner’s realm with a win let alone a maximum and the intensity of the Onchan performance is one that would be hard to match with every single one of their players giving their all, straining every sinew to keep their slim title hopes alive.
League leaders Marown A also put in a good shift away from home picking up a solid 8-2 win away at North Ramsey A to keep them in pole position prior to their eagerly anticipated midweek clash with the Champions at the Park. I don’t think I can over emphasise the magnitude of this clash for the local game with the perennial champions Onchan needing a win over the only team to realistically challenge them in a decade to further extend their record run of league wins.
If I am honest, going into this fixture, I firmly believed that Onchan would triumph relatively easily and regain top spot, especially with the deteriorating almost torrential conditions. I desperately wanted Marown to be up to the challenge, as I will always have a strong affinity with the great club, but genuinely didn’t think they would do it. Even with this doubt though I knew it wasn’t going to be easy for the second placed outfit, it wasn’t going to be enough for them to simply step up to the plate they were going to have to hit a home run to regain supremacy in the title race.
The Crosby men however did not share my doubts and went into the game believing they could win, that they deserved to win, after all the have been the best team in the division without questions this term. There was no way they were going to crumble they were going to scrap for every point; they knew they were in a fight, and fight they did.
First blood went to Marown with their Captain and June festival winner Neil Withers producing his best to see off the challenge of double Manx Champion Glynn Hargraves 21-11, in a game on paper that could have gone either way. Phil Kelly kept the momentum going for his side as he took out David Bradford 21-16. This is one that the champions would have thought they should win, with Bradford one of their best exponents at home, but Kelly more than justified his current fourth place in the league merit with another brilliant display.
Onchan were never going to go down without a fight and it was time for a family revival as father and son Kevin & Matthew Quirk picked up respective hard fought wins over Mike Cain & Ian Kissack to draw level on games with a narrow 3 point aggregate lead at the halfway stage. The home side weren’t don’t there with Phil Kerruish increasing their advantage by a game and 5 points as he beat last year’s division one merit winner Dean Kipling 21-16.
Marown stalwart Colin Kelly returned parity for his side on games and gave them a lead on chalks after a dominant 21-7 win over home captain Peter Slinger to leave everything hanging in the balance with just two games left on the green. Iron arm Gary Conwell put in an amazing second half of his game to come back from 18-9 adrift to beat John Gelling 21-18 and put the champions back in the driving seat. Marown, however, had their own man of steel though as seasoned campaigner Peter Kelly proved age and experience can overcome youth and treachery as he sealed the overall win for his team with a 21-17 victory over Jordan Cain.
This 6-4 win leaves Marown six points clear at the top and favourites to win their first title in eleven years and end Onchan’s era of invincibility, however there is still a lot of work to be done. With four games left each, forty points to play for, and Onchan with arguably the slightly easier run in Marown still have plenty of work to do.
I think Neil Withers’ charges will do it but I think there could be another twist in the tail yet and I firmly believe that both teams will be going into their final fixtures with the league still to play for.
Douglas A (H)
Ballaugh A (H)
South Ramsey A (A)
Castletown B (A)
Castletown B (H)
North Ramsey A (H)
Ballaugh A (A)
South Ramsey A (A)