Thriller At The Villa

League Week 1 Report by Mark Kneen

The bell rang for the start of Isle of Man Bank men’s division one with a gladiatorial like contest between rising contenders Douglas A and former champions Marown A at the Villa Marina last week. On paper the outcome looked too close to call with both protagonists evenly matched.

Douglas did all the work in the early rounds and after some strong performances led 3-1 one at the half way point. The second half however was a different story with the seasoned war horses from Crosby throwing all they had at their adversaries to gain the upper hand and move into a slender 4-3 lead on games.

This left the final bout on the green to decide the outcome of this epic encounter. Peoples champion Dave ‘Barney’ Kelly led Mike Cain 18-11, needing to ensure his opponent scored less than 17 to secure the win on aggregate for the home side. Cain showed the steely grit and determination of a battle hardened veteran closing the deficit to 15-18 and, with jack in hand, look like he would steal the points for the visitors. Kelly however had other ideas, showing that he has not only an iron will but an iron arm, delivering the knockout blow with a 21-15 win completing a hard fought 6-4 victory for Douglas.

Reigning champions Onchan A started their title defence with what looked like a routine high scoring victory away at Castletown B. Nobody, however, told the homes side this and the boys from the crofts put in some gargantuan performances pushing the favourites all the way. Town played magnificently to pick up 4 wins on the night, drawing on games and narrowly losing out on the aggregate points to go down fighting 4-6.

With Castletown B tipped by many for relegation, performances like this will go some way to proving their doubters wrong. Not many teams have picked up 4 wins against this stellar Onchan line-up so I cannot overstate how impressive this result is, and how vital these 4 points may be at the end of the season.

Onchan will be a wounded animal and ready to prove why they are once again odds on favourites for the league as they entertain Douglas A at the park tonight (Monday). I think Douglas will be a good test for the Champions but on their home pitch you have to fancy them to pick up the win.

Elsewhere in the division highly fancied Castletown A avoided a potential banana skin coming back from 3-0 down at Nobles Mixed to complete a strong 7-3 victory and get their 2013 campaign off the a strong start. Ports St Mary A weathered the close season storm and came out of the blocks strongly with a solid 7-3 home win over North Ramsey A.

Casteltown D are the surprise leaders at the top of Division 2 after an excellent 8-2 win over Peel C. Town as a club have strengthened in depth this year and this is evident across all of their teams as hot on their heels are Town C after a strong 7-3 home win over newly promoted Douglas B.

My love affair with division 3 continued as I had the pleasure of watching newly formed teams Douglas C and Peel D slug it out at the Villa. There is something magical about this division for me and to see a mix of Peel’s old guard continuing to play into their twilight years and some of the new boys from Douglas was a joy to behold.

The match had all the tension and drama of the previous night’s division 1 thriller and after some strong performances from both sides , noteably Mike Ashmole (Peel) & Clive McGreal (Douglas), was again finally poised with the aggregate points hanging in the balance. Ted Cain of Peel led 19-7 and needed to prevent debutant Thomas Keggen from getting to 9 to grab victory for his team, but Keggen dug deep and in only his first match managed to battle hard going down 21-9 ensuring his sides first ever league campaign started with a 6-4 win by the narrowest of margins winning 109-108 on points.

North Ramsey B are another new team in this division and again started excellently picking up a 6-4 win on their trip to Nobles Park B. I wish all the new teams well and this week’s action in all divisions has only wet my appetite for a fantastic season ahead.