During May, Cardiff was the destination for our Manx international bowlers to compete on the world stage at the Atlantic Championships. The competition that is run every four years is the qualification event for the World Championships. Only a top six finish in your respective pool in each discipline will earn that coveted spot. Although the Isle of Man was represented at the 2016 World Championships in the ladies triples, never before has a Manx team qualified outright to compete at pinacle bowls event the world has to offer. The ultimate aim for the team was to show an improvement on the performance from the previous championships four years ago in Cyprus, and for some was to achieve that illustrious world qualification spot.

The first week of competition saw the ladies play in the singles and fours disciplines, whilst our only two men played in the pairs. Firstly, Pam Makin who was our ladies singles representative did us extremely proud in her first ever outing in an international singles competition. Pam played nine matches over the first five days of play in the first week, winning two. Despite only winning two matches, each game she played, even against the favoured opponents was long and drawn out. If anyone had value for money out of the trip, it was Pam! She battled hard and restricted her competitors to low scoring ends, making most of her matches go beyond 25 ends of play, and on one occasion go so long the game timed out! Pam ended up ninth in her group and a smile on her face knowing she gave it her all every time she left the green. Our ladies four of Marcia Pearson, Karen Slack, Bernice McGreal and Janice Pilling found their first official outing together a difficult one. At times they struggled getting to grips with the vastly different greens and mainly their consistency. Although this was the case, they pushed a number of their opponents to close finishes, but failed to convert them to wins until their last match where it seemed everything clicked into place as they ran out 36-4 victors over Turkey, a team who four years ago made the playoffs!

Our men’s pair had always believed they were good enough to make the grade. They were unfortunate four years ago in Cyprus, but were focused on righting the wrongs in Cardiff. Having been placed in arguably the tougher of the two groups, which included ‘big boys’ Scotland, host country Wales and ‘Australia 2’ (Malta), along with a number of experienced nations, on paper many would have written off Mark and Clive’s chances. However, the lads had their game plan and executed it almost to perfection. So much so, that after day two of the week they were leading the group, after day three they held second spot, and before playing the Scottish legends, following the conclusion of the morning session on day four they lead the table once more having won six of the seven games played. All eyes at Barry Athletic were then firmly focused on rink two, as Mark and Clive faced Paul Foster MBE and Alex Marshall MBE of Scotland in a top of the table clash. Four years ago Foster and Marshall gave our lads a bit of a lesson, but this game was far different! But as with the rest of the week they had very little luck. They pushed the world’s best all the way, regularly held counts before Marshall showed why he is the best, and when needed just couldn’t convert bowls for big turnovers. The game ended 21-10. The lack of luck over the next couple of matches showed, as they narrowly lost to Israel and got beaten by Malta in the final game by just a few shots, which meant the lads fell down the table just out of the top three which would have obtained a play-off place. It left them reminiscing over the couple of missed chances and the huge lack of luck they had, as one more win from any of the four losses would have seen them get there. The goal however had been achieved, Mark and Clive have become the first Manx bowlers to achieve outright qualification for the bowls World Championships.

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