Lisburn bowler Stephen Kirkwood said it was an ‘honour’ to represent his country, as he claimed a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Youth Games 2015 in Samoa recently.
The Old Bleach bowler set off on Tuesday September 1, along with fellow bowler Chloe Watson and other members of the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Youth Games squad.
Stephen said it was “a life’s dream, an honour and a privilege that had become a reality. To represent my country at the Youth Commonwealth Games has no greater feeling – nerves, excitement and mixed emotions have kicked in already.”
The local bowler enjoyed the Opening Ceremony and then got down to some practice for a couple of days before competition got under way on Monday September 7, where Stephen would take on opposition from Samoa, India, Scotland, Namibia and Malaysia.
Stephen commented on the very different playing conditions from those he was used with back here in Northern Ireland.
“On the side of the island that the games were being held it was hot and dry and as a result the greens were predominantly sand based with a lot less grass than we were used to. This made for some interesting bowling conditions.”
Stephen’s first match was against Daeng Dahasry from Malaysia. Despite a closely fought game Stephen lost out 21 shots to 19 in his first group stage match but he stormed back with a 21-9 win against Alok Lakra from India.
The first game of the afternoon session gave Stephen at 21-8 win against the Samoan player Solomona Faamaoni and was well placed to reach the semi-finals.
Stephen closed out the first day’s play with another win – 21 shots to 10 against his Namibian opposition.
The second day of play began with the last group stage match with Stephen needing to score only a single shot against his Scottish opponent Darren Weir to be sure of a spot in the semi-finals.
In the end Stephen came off second best with the young Scottish player edging out a 21-14 victory but Stephen had done enough to secure his place in the medal playoffs.
Stephen’s semi-final match was against New Zealander Seamus Curtain with the victor progressing to the Gold Medal match. The New Zealander started the stronger taking a 15-7 shot lead. The local bowler fought back to trail 16-13 and then 18-15.
Stephen then lifted a full count of four shots in one end to take a 19-18 lead. The New Zealander then scored a single to tie the match 19-19 and then lifted 2 shots to win the match 21-19.
Stephen was still in with the shout of a medal with a Bronze medal playoff match against the Malaysian Daeng Dahasry. On this occasion Stephen came out the victor 21 shots to 15 and lifted another medal for Team NI.
Stephen had the chance to add to the medal tally and joined up with fellow Northern Ireland bowler Chloe Watson to compete in the mixed pairs, but with two early round robin defeats to the Cook Islands and South Africa it would require a win in crunch matches against the Aussies and Samoa in the afternoon session and other results to go in Stephen and Chloe’s favour to make the semi-finals.
Despite a comfortable win in their last match 24-13 against Samoa it was just not quite enough to progress to the medal playoffs.
Stephen added: “A massive thank you to my family and friends, to everyone from Irish bowls who gave me the opportunity, and especially to my club Old Bleach, I would not be at this standard if it wasn’t for the support they have given me.
“Last but not least up high there are two people who are always looking over my shoulder guiding me step by step and who are my inspiration to the sport we love.”