Author Archives: Mark Kneen

Festival Preview

This years June bowls festival is a very different one for me as it my first as a non resident of the Island. I have always been filled with anticipation and excitement of the top class bowling an atmosphere the coming week held in store, but to actually be one of the visiting holiday makers has stepped things up to another level. I now understand what all the pro Isle of Man bowls week Facebook statuses from the UK bowling fraternity are all about, I literally can’t wait for it, so when I was asked to write the preview for it I was like a kid in a sweet store and grabbed the opportunity with both hands!

Some things never change however and as always when I run through each section of the draw to pick out the potential winner I am awestruck by the quality of the field and the number of potential victors. This is going to be a great competition.

In my heart I will always want a Manx winner and I think with events out of their control meaning they had to pull out of the County Championships it would be fantastic if we had one this time around. For most of them this year the two bowls festivals are their only real chance to have a seat at the games top table and take on the best of the best.

The first section of the draw is simply littered with players wanting to make their mark and claim the main prize. Visitors Paul Bailey (Meersbrook) and Callum Wraight (Castlefields) will fancy their chances of going a long way and the winner of Lee Johnstone (St Oswalds) and Danny Ferris (Norton BC) could also have a very good week, Jordan Cain (Onchan) and Stuart Garrett (Douglas) are two locals who are more than capable of making a finals day appearance.

It gets even more difficult to predict what will happen in the next section and you can never write off Andy Spragg (Callow BC). The charismatic Steve Freer (Castlefields) would be a very popular winner with both locals and visitors alike as he always brings his unique flair to the party. Mark Hughes (Crossgates) is now regularly making it to the latter stages and there is no reason why he couldn’t do it again. Young Conor Chamberlain could also go well if he finds his form. From a local perspective we also have a players capable of mixing it with the best in the shape of Kevin Quirk (Onchan), Dave ‘Dido’ Kelly (South Ramsey) and Rob Monk (Onchan).

There are former winners and runners up everywhere I look as I scroll down the page and defending champion Kez Smith (Crossgates) will have his work cut out to retain his crown with the likes of Kevin Shaw (Westhaoughton), Carl Armitage (St Oswalds), Chris Barton (Wirral) and Colin Kelly (Marown) all in close proximity. Don’t be surprised to if Stevie Kelly (Peel) turns a few heads and causes a few surprises.

There are chances in the next section and for me it’s wide open. Another former champion Gax Lalley (Crossgates) will fancy his chances of making it to the latter stages however in form Trevor Qualye (Port St Mary), who currently leads the local division one merit, has the potential to do very well indeed.

Wayne Ditchfield (Kirkham) and Dave Jackson (Railway) will both expect to make it to the latter stages however there will be only room for one of them, that is of course if the get past local David Bradford (South Ramsey) who on his day can beat absolutely anyone and everyone.

Jack Dyson (Thongsbridge) will be hoping to add his name to the trophy however with seasoned campaigners such as Martin Gilpin (Kendal Vic), Rich Goddard (Castlefields), Rob Fitzpatrick (Wirral) and Marown’s Neil Withers all on the same page it would be a very good week at the office if he was to leave with the crown.

Ian Nicholson’s (Kendal Vic) name jumps of the next page and hits me between the eyes as the man most likely to be in the final shake up from the next group, however it will be interesting to see how Billy Speed (Castlefields) and young Stefan Kelly (South Ramsey) fare.

Stuart Mort (Kirkham) and Matt Kelly-Wally (Belvedere) will both fancy a long run out over the week however experienced locals Dave ‘Barney’ Kelly (Peel), Phil Kerruish (Onchan) and Manx Championship runner up Pete Slinger (Onchan) will all be wanting their own day in the sun on Friday.

News has filtered through to me that local favourite John Kennish (South Ramsey) is unable to take part in the competition this year due to work commitments which really opens up the next section of the draw. I can’t even begin to work out who will make best use of this and it will definitely pay dividends for someone and Paul Chamberlain (Stretton Anglesey) may just be the man to cash in.

James Wilcox (Crossgates) is probably favourite to make it to finals day out of the final 32 in the competition however locals Matthew Quirk (Onchan) and Matthew Keggen (Marown) are both well placed to stop him.

Well that’s it for now, draw analysed and like me you are probably no clearer to picking a winner than I am. What should shine through, however, is the quality of the field and the week of bowls we have in store for us and as I said at the top I literally can’t wait for it to start.

R & A Grimshaw Men’s Doubles

Thirty pairs made the annual pilgrimage to Marown on Tynwald day to take part in the Grimshaw fours and it was Colin Kelly & Michael Collister who came out on top in a magnificent final.

They took the win by the narrowest of margins beating farther and son pairing Dave ‘Barney’ Kelly & Stevie Kelly 21-20 after a terrific encounter. The balance of play couldn’t have been more even until Collister found an out of this world front toucher with his lead on the final end to seal the fate of the battling challengers who couldn’t find a way to better it.

Kelly & Collister also have to show their metal in the semi-finals as they eliminated newly crowned Manx Doubles Champions John Kennish & David Bradford 21-19 after another ding dong battle. The Kelly’s also had a tricky encounter against Port St Mary’s Ewan Cooil & Wayne Roberts but had enough in the tank for a 21-17 win.

Losing out in the quarterfinals were Steve Parker & Steve Walmsley, Grahem Moore & Les Warburton, Ian Kissack & Mike Hargraves and Peter Slinger & Kevin Quirk.

Thanks go to Marown for putting on and running another superb competition.

South Ramsey March On

Despite the miserable weather last week things are really hotting up at the top of Ellan Vannin Fuels Men’s Division One.

Leaders South Ramsey A continued to turn up the heat with another strong showing winning 9-1 at home against Nobles A. With ten games to go the northerners must now be firm favourites to take their first ever Division one title and etch their names in to the history books.

Marown A are their nearest rivals only two points back and whilst they will fancy their chances they need to start getting their best eight players on the green if they want to mount a serious challenge.

This week is a great time to start with South sitting out this week they have the chance to go top and put serious pressure on the league leaders. It won’t be easy as they host a tricky North Ramsey A team who are capable of causing one or two surprises but a big result for the Crosby men here really would put the cat amongst the pigeons.

Onchan A continue to make third place their own and chances of a spirited fight back seem to be waning week by week, but this is also their chance to strike. They have an outside chance of a maximum against Finch Hill A this week and need to take it and start closing the gap on the leaders one point at a time.

Fourth places Port St Mary A hosted fifth place Douglas A last week and as you would expect things were pretty close. Both teams secured four games apiece with Port taking the victory thanks to a pretty convincing aggregate win 155-131. It was a pretty solid away performance by the Villa men who can take heart from a couple of great escapes late on in the match to secure their four points.

Castletown A have found themselves in a really rich vein of form for the last couple of weeks and another really impressive win, 6-4 away from home against North Ramsey A, sees them comfortably in sixth place only five points behind Douglas. Town have another great chance of a win this week as they host local rivals Port Erin A and if they do manage to capitalise it really will have been a good mini-run for them.

The battle of the newly promoted teams went the way of South Ramsey B who will be delighted to have left the Villa Marina with a 7-3 win over Douglas B. Victory will taste even sweeter for Ben Dugdale’s northern charges as this win sees them leapfrog North Ramsey into seventh place.

League leaders Peel A really are the consistent team in Division Two this term and another solid showing, winning 8-2 at home against North Ramsey B, sees them extend their lead at the top of the table to eleven points.

Second placed Castletown B are still doing their best to try and secure themselves promotion and a 7-3 result against Peel B sees them put another win safely in the bag. This is a really good result for town against a high flying Peel team who are still in with an outside chance of an historic first and second finish for the Govags.

Town will need to watch themselves however as third placed Marown B are really making a late charge for promotion and are in danger of sneaking past them on the outside as Brian Kelly’s men picked up their second 9-1 win in a row, this time against Ballaugh B.

Top of the table Douglas C and second places Port Erin B exchanged 7-3 results last week, against Peel D and Ballaugh C respectively, to keep the gap at the top static at nine points.

Douglas sit out in two weeks’ time and this week is their last match for a fortnight so Ports best chance at a serious title challenge is to try and eliminate the gap and put themselves on top when the Villa next take to the green, as the week after that they travel to the Villa in a do or die match for them.


In contrast to the recent sunshine Castletown Bowling Club hosted the 50th Anniversary of the Veros Digital Sponsored Ballacashtal Cup in wind and rain on Sunday.

104 bowlers made the pilgrimage to the old capital for this biggest one day competition on the Island. It Was South Ramsey’s John Kennish went one step further that the previous day lifting the trophy thanks to a superb 21-7 final win over the Wirral’s Peter Jones.

Kennish eliminated Port St Mary’s Paul Skelly in the semi final 21-11 whilst Jones had to fight all the way to see of the challenge of Marown’s Neil Wilthers 21-20.

Losing out at the quarter final stage were Ian Johnson, Mark Bramhall, Dave Halstead & Michael Hewitson.

Thanks go to Casteltown Bowling Club for putting on and running a superb competition despite very testing conditions for organisers and competitors alike and also to Veros Digital for their sponsorship.

Jim Kernan

Visitor Wayne Ditchfield won the Jim Kernan trophy on a very tricky South Ramsey green beating John Kennish 21-19 in a highly entertaining final.

Ditchfield settled superbly from his first bowl of the day and had to be at the top of his game to beat pre-tournament favourite Kennish on his own patch.

Wayne had to overcome the challenge of another local in the semi-finals as he dispatched David Bradford 21-14. At the same stage Kennish beat his common adversary Colin Kelly by the same score.

Fallers at the quarter finals were Stevie Kelly, Tony Hary, Mark Bramhall & John ‘Doctor’ Watson.

Thanks go to South Ramsey and to George Brew in both his capacity as green keeper for turning out an immaculate playing surface but also as sponsor. Thanks George.

June Festival Preview

It’s always hard to predict what will happen in the Men’s main festival competition, as unlike the programme the games won’t be played on paper.

There is always someone who tears up the form book and puts in a barnstorming performance to set the cat amongst the pigeons!

This year is no different and with the usual host of top visiting names it is almost impossible to call. Nicholson, Gilpin, Ditchfield, Wraight, Bailey & Gilmore they are all now familiar names on the Island and will be hoping this is their year.

There are some new names this time too and some unfamiliar faces who will be hoping to make their first visit to the Island a fruitful one.

There should be a strong local showing as well, although John Kennish will need to play the tournament of his life to win as he is giving the field a five point start after winning back to back festivals in September 2014 and June 2015. Colin Kelly will hope to do well as will David Bradford, Glynn Hargraves and in form Matthew Keggen to name just a few.

This always backfires on me but my predictions to qualify from their sections and make the last eight on finals day is below:

Jack Dyson v James Palmer, Ian Nicholson v John Bailey, James Wilcox v Matt Gilmore, Callum Wraight v Colin Kelly

South Top At Half Way

South Ramsey A defeated Port Erin A 8-2 last week ensuring they top Ellan Vannin Fuels Men’s Division one at the half way stage.

As the domestic league scene now takes a week out, with the Island hosting the June Bowls Festival, South will be delighted with how they have performed so far this season winning all 12 of their matches to head Marown by four points at the turn.

Their talisman John Kennish also leads the way at the top of the individual merit with team mate Dave ‘Dido’ Kelly hot on his heals to add to what has been a brilliant start for the Ramsey men. They were most peoples tip for the title before a bowl was played and they are certainly living up to their billing as the ones to beat.

Marown A are course and distance men and are still very much in the hunt, knowing that a big result against South when they play each other would be enough to cancel out the points differential. They played South Ramsey B last time out and with an 8-2 win of their own kept the point’s difference static.

Defending champions Onchan A are third but trail the leaders by thirteen points, after a good 7-3 win away to Castletown A, which may be a bridge too far.

Realistically they need a near perfect second half to close the cap and mount a serious title challenge, and I am not sure they have enough in the tank to do it. That said they know how to win though, and if they can get themselves there or there about approaching the closing stages you just never know.

Port St Mary A seem to have settled into fourth spot now and will have their sights firmly set on Onchan who are 9 points ahead of them, and results like their 8-2 win over North Ramsey will do them no harm at all.

As the division starts to take shape it’s the bottom that proves equally as interesting as the top. Ballaugh A occupy the foot of the table after narrowly losing out 4-6 away from home to second bottom Nobles A. Both these teams have improved dramatically in recent weeks and they will be hoping to build on their first half results as they fight for their first division lives.

Finch Hill A are third bottom, four points ahead of Nobles, and will be delighted to have picked up four points in the last match at the Villa against Douglas A narrowly losing out 6-4 after tying on games.

Peel A remain at the summit of Division Two however they were made to fight all the way to the end last time out at Ballaugh A winning 6-4 thanks to the aggregate points.

Castletown B are second, seven points behind the leaders, and will be delighted to have left Port St Mary C with a 7-3 win.

Peel B put in a great performance to beat Noble B 8-2 and move within one point of Town. This will be a remarkable turn around for the club if they can get both of their teams in the top two spots and back into division one.

Peel C aren’t having the same good fortunes and are bottom trailing second bottom team Ballaugh C by seven points. North Ramsey B are only one point better off in tenth place.

Division Three leaders Douglas C put in a really strong showing at home to beat new boys Marown C 9-1 and extend their lead at the top to ten points.

Port Erin B are still in second place and should be happy with a good 6-4 win away from home at Finch Hill B.

IOM vs North Lancs & Fylde Report

The Paddy Power sponsored Isle of Man senior men’s team faced off against and extremely strong North Lancs & Fylde team on Mad Sunday and won the home leg at Port St Mary, however they lost out overall.

This is becoming a familiar story for the Manx Men as this is their third consecutive home victory, however they are yet to pick up an overall win.

With the team taking part in the competition for only the second year we should be delighted with these performances as the team really is taking on the best that the sport has to offer, however it is testament to how far we have come that this result is still tinged with a bit of disappointed as we had hoped for more.

They are really flying the flag for the Isle of Man proudly and there was nothing but praise from their counterparts from across the water who could only applaud everything about the local effort from the hospitality shown by Port St Mary, the organisation on the day right through to some brilliant performance both home and away.

The Port St Mary green is an absolute testament to the club and thanks go to the green keepers for the preparation of it. It was quite simply frightening! This was by far the fastest green that the Island team has used to date in the Crosfield Cup, and overall the home side handled it well with five out of twelve winners, but taking the leg victory on points.

There were some real positives to take out of the day and first county wins for Matthew Keggen and Dave ‘Barney’ Kelly were definitely amongst them. The former picked up the Gellings man of the match award for an Isle of Man player as a result of his battling 21-17 win over Tommy King.

Colin Kelly, Peter Collister and John Kennish all showed their class and put in superb displays to add to the Islands tally of wins and ensure the points victory.

Visitor Sam Patterson picked up the Endsleigh Man of the Match award for his 21-15 win over David Bradford.

Take nothing away though from those that didn’t win, we place too much emphasis on winning individual games when the code in the Crosfield cup is all about points, and every point scored by every player went towards this win. To put in in its simplest terms if the losing players had all scored one less point we would have lost the match. This was a real team effort.

Away from home was a slightly different story and there were real lessons learned about both the class of the opposition and the importance of a strong home side on a difficult green. This is a learning curve though and every day is a school day and the team will be much stronger after this match.

Two real highlights though were the performances of Jordan Cain and Trevor Quayle. Cain picked up the overall Endsleigh Man of the Match award for his superb 21-16 win over North Lancs Captain Dave Watters, whilst Quayle was magnificent winning the Gellings award for his 21-13 win over the incomparable Mike Leach.

There were other good performances too and despite falling short of the overall win the Manx Men can be very proud of what they are achieving in this competition.

If they take heart from anything it should be Cumbria’s victory this weekend over reigning champions Warwick and Worcester. Not long ago Cumbria were considered an easy match and questionably the weakest team in the competition and yesterday they beat unquestionably the strongest county in the sport. Our day will come.

Marown on the March

Marown A continued where they left off in Ellan Vannin Fuels Division One with another breathtaking 10-0 maximum, this time at the expense of Castletown A.

This is their fourth maximum out of only ten games and really does throw the gauntlet down to their rival and set their stall out for the rest of the season. The Crosby side travel to third placed Onchan A next time out, when play resumes in TT week, and they will be hoping to continue in this rich vein of form to remain in pole position.

Second placed South Ramsey A are still very much in touch after a strong 8-2 away from home against North Ramsey A leaves them just two point off the pace. They too have a tricky encounter next time out as they face their own talented B team in an interclub derby, however they will be hoping that the stars align to see them close the deficit on Marown.

It was Onchan’s turn to sit out last week and they now find themselves ten points adrift of the leaders. If they want to mount a serious defence of their title now is the time and they will need to get back on track against Marown next week.

Port St Mary A have now slipped into rhythm and are in fourth place, where most people expect them to finish, and a strong 8-2 win away from home over Finch Hill A has done their points tally no harm at all.

Fifth place Douglas A travelled to Ballaugh A where they picked up a 7-3 victory. If they want to chase down any of the teams above them they need to start winning bigger as although they have won seven of their ten games they have by far the lowest games for tally of any of the top five.

South Ramsey B showed once again why they are a team no to be taken lightly this term with another strong showing to beat Port Erin A 7-3.

Douglas B also continued with a good account of themselves picking up another valuable home win as they toppled Nobles A 7-3.

Peel A are the cream of the crop in Division Two and another impressive display, as they swept aside Port St Mary C 9-1, will do nothing but enhance their title credentials.

Second placed Castletown B kept the pressure on the leaders as they matched their result with their own strong 9-1 showing over Onchan B, however they trail Peel by eight points.

The Govags second string have now joined the party and a 9-1 win for Peel B over their own C team sees them move into third place just two points behind Town.

Port St Mary B are in fourth after a hard fought 7-3 win against North Ramsey B, to keep their hopes of promotion very much alive.

Douglas C are looking the most likely to win Division Three after a very strong 8-2 victory away at South Ramsey C sees them move seven points clear at the top.

Port Erin B continue to be their closest rivals after a 7-3 win over South Ramsey D sees them cement the work they have already put in.

Congratulations to new boys Marown C on their first away win of the season and what a win as they put in a scintillating performance to beat Finch Hill B 9-1. They are currently mid table but more results like this would certainly see that change.

Haldane Fisher Mixed Doubles

There was a bumper entry of 37 pairs for the Haldane Fisher Mixed Doubles competition at the Villa Marina on Saturday.

The Douglas club host two mixed doubles competitions each season and it was fitting that the winners of each squared off in the final with defending champions Lyn Bolton & Trevor Quayle taking on Janet & Robert Monk.

Their was some excellent play in the final however it was the Monks that settled quickest and never took their foot off the gas as they took the win 21-13. They really do play the Villa green exceptionally well and this weekend was no different.

Port Erin pair Voirrey Curphy & Seamus Whelan did exceptionally well to make it to the semi finals, however the eventual victors proved too strong for them. The talented pairing of Paula Firth & Jordan Cain were eliminated at the same stage by the defending champions.

Fallers at the quarter final stage were Chris Price & Dido Kelly, Jenny Moore & James Teare, Claire Cooper & Lee Dawson and Alison Keggen & Michael Collister.

Thanks go to Douglas Bowling club for a well run competition and superb playing surface and to Haldane Fisher for their continued support of the club.