The Western Ladies bowls team have claimed their second ever All Ireland title after a titanic battle against North West zone last Saturday in Magherafelt.
With the game coming down to the very last end, it was the Fermanagh side that held their nerve to claim a title that has been agonisingly close for the last number of years.
Western knew this was going to be a very tough game as North West have placed a big emphasis on their youth players over the last number of years and this has started to come to fruition for them, but it was Western’s big game experience that just about seen them over the line.
Western settled into the early part of the game well and had moved into an eight shot lead at the interval, 31 shots to 23.
Laura Lunny, Emma Scott, Hannah Ferguson and Jean Parkinson took on Mary Douglas on Mat 1. This was a nip and tuck affair and the scores were level at 5-5 after five ends. But it was the Western rink that finished the stronger and ran out winners by 11 shots to 7.
On Mat 2 Margaret Nelson, Lorraine Mavitty, Roslyn Gray and Janet Brown were up against North West’s Hannah Cochrane. It was the young North West rink that got off to the better start and led by 9 shots to 4 with only two ends remaining. 
Western got a big boost just before the interval though and Janet’s rink was able to collect two counts of four shots in each of the last two ends to win by 12 shots to 9.
The final game of the first half saw Western’s rink skipped by Gladys Liggett taking on Freda Hunt. Anne Brian, Rita Cranston and Lisa Mavitty along with Liggett were up against it early on and trailed by 4 shots to 1 after four ends. 
But winning four out of the last six ends ensured an 8-7 victory and kept Western in a favourable position on the overall scoreboard.
The second half was only three ends old when North West had got back on level terms and were in the ascendency. On Mat 1 Rebecca Gilroy, Ethna Maguire, Catherine Scott and Caroline Scott were taking on Joanne McIntyre and tied at 2-2 after four ends.
Mat 2 saw Esther Forster along with Frances Cartwright, Tanya Armstrong and Ellen Brogan come up against Shauna O’Neill. It was the North West rink that got off to the better start and led 4-2 after four ends.
On Mat 3 Carmel McGovern, Rose Donnelly, Patricia Bradshaw and Jean Carson faced Fiona McDermott. 
Again, it was the North West rink that started the brighter and led by 4 shots to 1 after four ends.
With the game in the melting pot it was Jean Carson who got Western back in the driving seat. 
A count of seven shots on the fifth end gave Western the breathing space they had enjoyed at the interval once more, and they held this advantage over the next number of ends.
Mat 1 had finished with Caroline Scott claiming an important victory by 10 shots to 8, but the other two games still had two ends remaining.
On Mat 2 Shauna O’Neill had really put the pressure on by claiming a count of five shots on the penultimate end, whilst on Mat 3 Fiona McDermott had claimed a further two shots to leave Western leading by just two shots with the final end to be played.
Esther Forster found herself in trouble again in the final end with three shots against her but played an important bowl to lay third shot. Meanwhile Jean Carson also found herself with two shots against her when she came to play her final two bowls of the game. With the whole contest resting on this last end, it was the Western skips who called upon their big game experience to see them through. Jean played two perfect bowls to secure two shots for Western which meant Esther’s bowl to secure third shot had also helped to ensure Western were crowned 2017/2018 Ladies champions.
At the close of play, Western Zone convenor, Harold Nixon, received the winner’s trophy and congratulated both sets of players on a fantastic final.
This was no more than Western Ladies deserved having gone close on a number of occasions over the last number of years. The introduction of some of our junior bowlers has had a great impact on this year’s team and with the guidance of some of our experienced bowlers it will be Western’s intention to keep this current crop together for the next number of years.