Wellington’s Finbar McGuigan has emerged as the country’s in-form youth representative, rounding out an unbeaten run of 10 games to capture the coveted 2019 Burnside U26 Singles in Christchurch.
Held every year over three days, 32 of arguably the best age-grade talent in the sport converge to battle it out for the sought-after accolade, with many having carved out strong reputations following their win in this event, including world singles champion Shannon McIlroy,
Storming out of the blocks, the favoured names quickly came to the fore stamping their dominance on the competition early doors and racing towards a spot in the all important quarter-finals.
After seven rounds of qualifying, the top two from each of the four sections advanced to make up the last eight, while those who placed third and fourth in each section comprised Division Two.
The quarter-finalists were; Seamus Curtin, Sheldon Bagrie-Howley, Aidan Zittersteijn, Bradley Down, Caleb Hope, Taylor Horn, Daryl Read and McGuigan himself.
Having shown devastating form throughout section play, McGuigan, who features on the playing roster for the Stokes Valley Vipers Bowls3Five campaign this season, continued his fine run of play opposite Gore prospect Hope, before dispatching the impressive Zittersteijn, who represents the Cook Islands on the international stage, 21-16.
The other side of the draw saw current Blackjack Curtin overcome a firm challenge from reigning national men’s singles champion Taylor Horn, 21-13, before emulating his result in last year’s final opposite Bagrie-Howley, 21-10 to set up a blockbuster finals clash against his good friend and fellow Stokes Valley club member McGuigan.
And the final certainly lived up to its billing.
Demonstrating some excellent touch and ferociously accurate attacking bowls, McGuigan proved too strong on the day for Curtin, closing out the win 21-13 and lifting the U26 silverware for the first time.
Reflecting on the win, McGuigan, who has represented New Zealand at development level, said the weekend’s results have given his season a “huge kickstart”, but signalled there could be more to come.
“I was definitely pretty stoked with how I got on, it’s always a great tournament to come down to play in and against the best young players in New Zealand,” McGuigan said.
“It’s great knowing the players quite well and I was pretty rapt to not lose a game all weekend and play consistently good bowls for three days, (also in the rough conditions too).”
McGuigan, who first started bowling with Curtin at Plimmerton in their younger school days (aged 10 & 11), it was a special moment to be playing against his “best mate” in the final at such a high profile event.
“It’s always a great battle when we (Seamus and I) play each other and it’s great to see my best mate playing well too.
“This definitely gives my season a huge kick start, but I still have a lot more I want to achieve this season, so I won’t be falling off or losing concentration after the win . . . I’ll be preparing myself for the big tournaments to come.”
Meanwhile, Burnside’s local hope Richard Hocking took out the win in Division Two, defeating Victoria’s Nicole Toomey, 21-9 in a hard fought field.
In other results, Tauranga’s national school boys champion Anthony Ouellet proved too strong in Division Three for West Coast representative Ethan Kelleher, 15-8, while Paritutu’s Brendon Walton defeated Okato’s Hamish Kape, 15-7 to claim Division Four.
McGuigan, along with many, if not all of this year’s U26 field, will be back in Christchurch at the Summerset National Singles and Pairs in January, with McGuigan set to team up with Mike Carroll in what forms a formidable pairing on the big stage.
2019 Burnside U26 Singles, Christchurch
Champion: Finbar McGuigan (Stokes Valley)
R/Up: Seamus Curtin (Stokes Valley)
3rd equal: Sheldon Bagrie-Howley (Gore)
Aidan Zittersteijn (Paritutu)
Richard Hocking (Burnside)
Anthony Ouellet (Bowls Tauranga South)
Brendon Walton (Paritutu)
by Sam Morton