Invitations had been extended by the Leos Boys Club from Benburb, to teams from across the pond and from south of the border.  Friday afternoon saw the famous Oxney Vines Cross team from England arrive at the City of Belfast Airport, whereupon they undertook a short tour of the Titanic area and the Titanic Centre, before making their way to the International airport where they joined up with members of the York team.  At this point they all travelled to their destination at The Priory in Benburb where they had arranged to stay for the night.

Acquaintances were made again and just prior to their evening meal, the two teams were weighed and photographed.  I am told they all enjoyed the evening’s festivities before retiring early to bed.  Breakfast time came around early and everyone was served a hearty fry.

The scales opened again at 12noon and teams from Co Monaghan (Rockies) and Co Longford (The Valley) arrived in time, interspersed by the local teams from Derryogue, Bancran, Garvagh and Leos Boys.  There were expectations that later on in the competition, we would be joined by some of the Young Farmers Clubs that have been training with Leos and Garvagh clubs.

All the weighing done and the draws made, everyone made their way to the playing fields on the outskirts of the village.  Lots of hard work had been carried out with crush barriers, tents and a sound system installed for the afternoon.

First up came the 650kgs with eight teams entered in one group.  All of the visitors and all of the local teams were due to participate.  Teams were littered with a plethora of experience from many clubs and on first sight this was going to be a good competition.

Disappointment was not to be had during the first competition with nothing given or expected from any quarter.  Competition throughout the first stages was exciting and up to the mark with Bancran eventually finishing on full points closely followed by Oxney Vines Cross three points adrift, Derryogue just behind them and The Valley pulling into fourth spot.  One pulls foure and two pulls three.

Bancran met with The Valley on one rope whilst Oxney Vines Cross met Derryogue.  Again there was little between all of the teams but Oxney Vines Cross and Bancran came through to the finals.  A short rest and back to the rope again came the tow protagonists.  The young Oxney Vines Cross team under the watchful eye of their experienced coach Dougie Reid, whilst the experience of the Bancran team was evident throughout the competition.  The ground had cut up well and the trigs were getting deep.  The first end started off in a flurry with both teams settling well into the pressure game.  Both teams sat and watched their opponents and soon the watch was running up close on the ten minute mark.  Just prior to the expected change, both teams started to work on one another, preventing the need to move to fresh ground and to start over.  Again it was too and fro but eventually the experience of Bancran told with them taking the first end on 13.5 minutes.

Another break ensued and both teams were signalled to change ends. Once again the judge got it started and both teams once again dripped in to a favoured position in the deep trigs.  Movement was difficult due to the depth of the trigs and one false move would have signalled difficulty for the team making any slip.

Again the watch was fast approaching the ten minute mark but at about the 8 minute mark, both teams again had a go at one another.  Again the experience of Bancran told with them taking the second end in a time of 09.40minutes.

First gold medal of the season for Bancran and a well deserved Silver medal for the up and coming team from Oxney Vines Cross.

Next up came the catch weight category and this time we were please to be joined by Young Farmers Club teams from Strabane and Holestone.  No weighing needed, just pure strength and experience.  This time there were six teams pulled through on a knock out basis.

Through to the final of this com[petition came the team from Co Longford, The Valley and the Oxney Vines Cross.  The work that had been expended by the Oxney lads told its tale this time and again they finished up with a silver medal with The Valley taking the Gold medal.

The evening was wearing on well and it was almost 4.30 before the 620kgs competition started with 7 teams in the round robin stages of the competition.  Prior to starting it was agreed by all that this would be a straight final between the top two teams.  New ground was chosen and the ropes moved before the teams took to the field.  A good competition took place again with nothing given or expected from any team. 

At the end the two local rivals from Derryogue and Bancran came to the top of the league and went through to the final.

By this stage the ground had begun to get endy with the first end being taken by Derryogue.  In the second end, the pull followed the end and this time Bancran took the honours.  Taking the toss, the Derryogue coach opted to change around and to go into the same ground where the first two ends had been won.

A good choice and again the pull followed the same end with Derryogue taking the honours.

The presentations took place immediately after the com[petition and the medals were presented by Leo Collins. 

An exceptional competition for the first one of the season.  This is going to be hard to beat. 

Following on from the completion of the presentations and all of the clearing up done, the visitors were treated to some local hospitality in the now famous Bottle of Benburb pub with homemade food and live music.  On Sunday morning following their breakfast, the visitors were again entertained by a local historian and a demonstration of road bowls before making their  way back to the airport and home.

Certainly an excellent start to the season and one which we could do with every week.  Our local teams are looking in good form for the start of the season.  Experience will tell and I have no doubt that the young team from Oxney Vines Cross are a team for the future and one to keep an eye out for.

Well done to everybody concerned with Leos Boys Club.


Written by:  - 6 May, 2013