A game of two halves
Onchan A remained at the summit of Isle of Man Bank Men’s league division one on Monday night after coming back from the brink to tie 5-5 with early pace setters Marown A at the memorial playing fields, and the only question in my mind is how long can they stay there? It is not a question of if, but simply when will they surrender pole position to their closest rivals?
Home Captain Neil Withers played his hand magnificently. After assessing the draw he put the four games onto the green that he thought were most likely to result in wins for his team, and after sailing into a 4-0 lead at the half way stage was completely vindicated for his decision. What he could not have allowed for was the fighting spirit in the away sides back order as one by one they mercilessly went about the business breaching the deficit.
Glynn Hargraves, David Bradford and Phil Kerruish all put in blistering performances for the champions showing incredible resolve to keep their campaign on track, and with seven of the eight games played they now only trailed 4-3 on the night, with the battle for the two additional aggregate points now swinging in their favour.
With only one game left there was all to play for with arguably the strongest players from each side being drawn against each other, in a fight to the finish line. Five times Island Champion Colin Kelly was in no mood to be messed with as he took out double Manx Champion Kevin Quirk 21-16 to add another point to his team’s tally; however whilst not winning the latter man achieved his secondary objective in the process, scoring enough points to ensure his side picked up the two additional aggregate points.
You have to give credit to the champions for pulling something out of the bag on this occasion, however I think they are living on borrowed time as I see challengers Marown, who have a game in hand, replacing them at the top of the table in the not too distant future and staying there. I am going to call it early and say the that title will be with Marown at the memorial playing fields in September and the era of Onchan’s dominance will be over.
Third placed Douglas A must be absolutely delighted with their 7-3 away win at Castletown A. Both these sides are leading the charge for the minor places and this is definitely first set to the Douglas. Not many teams will leave the crofts with a victory this year so credit should be duly given to the elixir drinking mercenaries. This result nicely sets up a showdown next time out between the high achieving upstarts from the Villa against reigning champions Onchan, and with the encounter taking place on their own turf I honestly think Douglas could get something out of this tie. If they do beat the champions their focus will shift from third place and they will have one eye on second spot.
South Ramsey A remain in fifth spot despite unexpectedly losing 6-4 away at Ballaugh A on a tricky green which has recently undergone heave maintenance. The points will be invaluable to the home side as they fight to stay in top tier, however the away side will be gutted to have dropped points on the tricky playing surface.
Noble Mixed A moved into sixth spot and have now found themselves some breathing space in the battle for survival after a solid 8-2 win over Peel A at home. North Ramsey B now occupy seventh spot after a 6-4 win over Castletown B saw them leapfrog their opponents up the table.
Controversy reigned in division 2 as Castletown D battled hard to defeat league leaders Port St Mary B 7-3, however the town side fielded an ineligible player meaning that they were stripped of that result, which in turn cost them the aggregate points changing the result to a 6-4 win in favour of the visitors who have now extended their lead at the top of the table.
Second Placed Port Erin A failed to capitalise on their rivals potential dropped pointes as they went down 7-3 away at Peel B. Third placed Castletown C lost by the same score line away at the ever improving Onchan B meaning that despite losing the town lads are still only two points off a promotion place.
Division 3 league leaders Onchan C had to fight hard to beat South Ramsey C 6-4 and remain on track for the title, however challengers Nobles Park A are now only one point adrift after a magnificent 9-1 victory over Port Erin B.