LISBURN bowler Kristofor Matchett excelled again at the IBA Youth Singles Championships at the Blackrock Green, Dublin last weekend to retain his Irish title.
Kristofor’s semi-final encounter was a tough one against Mark Jones (Portglenone) during which he came from behind to produce some fantastic bowls in the closing stages to win 21-19.
This is set him up well for the Saturday afternoon final against Ryan McKeown, Mossley which he won 21-15 to retain the Irish Youth Singles Championship for the second year in succession. He joins a small elite group of champions who have done so in the past.
Matchett showed some nerves during the early stages of the match and was somewhat uncomfortable on what was reputed to be the trickiest rink on the Blackrock Green. Matchett was surprised by McKeown taking the full four shots on the first end but he had the upper hand on the next end and pulled a shot back on a measure to trail 4-1. He was unfortunate to drop another shot on the third end due to McKeown connecting with his own short bowl to send it into the head: 5-1. In spite of that Matchett kept his cool and played a great last bowl to take in an attempt to take a shot off the fifth end but McKeown struck back by regaining the shot to lead 6-2.
The sixth end was a loose end for both players and resulted in McKeown going further ahead 8-2 but the next end went in favour of Matchett with him drawing a magnificent shot bowl that brought an outburst of appreciative applause from the numerous spectators surrounding the green. Both bowlers were finding difficulty with line and weight but Matchett took the initiative and collected a valuable triple-shot on the eighth end to reduce McKeown’s lead to 8-6. Unfortunately McKeown won the ninth end to extend his lead to 10-6.
Matchett was beginning to show signs of recovery and won a shot off the tenth end after McKeown drew tight past Matchett’s shot bowl to bring the score to 10-7. At this stage Matchett was definitely coping better on the rink, and with McKeown drawing his third bowl on a tight line to take Matchett’s bowl into the head for him to lie shot, the Lurgan bowler was spurred on to draw an excellent second shot. However McKeown was not to be deterred and bowled a tremendous response bowl to claim the end and the shot to lead 11-7.
The twelfth and thirteenth ends went in favour of Matchett with single shots off each end to reduce McKeown’s lead to 11-9. Matchett was definitely getting back into the match and was certainly bowling with purpose. The positive approach paid dividends for Matchett at the fourteenth end when he bowled a brilliant opening bowl to within four inches of the jack. McKeown produced a good response but just skimmed past. Then there was a terrific second bowl from Matchett with McKeown just missing again. Another super third from Matchett! McKeown panicked and sent his last bowl through while Matchett drew a fourth – a crucial full house and the match was turning in Matchett’s favour with him taking the lead for first time at 13-11.
However McKeown struck back hard and took three shots off the fifteenth end to lead 14-13. The sixteenth was a massive match-winner for Matchett. His championship experience, cool and determination started to show when he took the full four shots for the second time in the game and his lead to 17-14.
Matchett was mastering the rink and bowled a cracker opening shot right to the jack at the next end. McKeown responded similarly but fortunately Matchett was still lying and also drew a great second. McKeown took one of Matchett’s bowls back but Matchett reached it with a great third shot and succeeded in collecting two valuable shots to extend his lead to 19-14. Matchett took another shot on the next end to widen the shot difference to six shots at 20-14. One shot needed to win the championship!
Tension was rising on the rink again with both players feeling it. With Matchett drawing a good first bowl to jack high McKeown was up against but responded well to take the shot. Then Matchett bowled his best one of the match to take the jack, and go with it, through to his back bowl and claim two shots. Again his opponent bowled an exceptional bowl to take the shot and win the end: 20-15 to Matchett!
Matchett needed only one shot to win the match by 21-15 and he got it by bowling challenging bowls to which McKeown had really no answer.
Young Matchett came through this tough match with flying colours and without doubt is a very worthy second-time champion. Like his family, the Lurgan club members are so proud of his latest achievement and warmly congratulate him on his success which is a great honour to him and the club. They wish him all the very best when goes with the Irish International A (U25) team as travelling reserve next weekend. They are playing in the home international series in Scotland. Hopefully he will gain his first outdoor cap, as he has already done on the indoor scene earlier this year at both U25 and U18 levels.