Marlacoo and Portavogie dominate as Glenarm switch works
FAIR play to piping's powers-that-be for creative thinking when it comes to staging some of their local contests.
Organisers of the Co Antrim Championships, which were rained off last year in Larne, chose to take this year's event to the stunning backdrop of Glenarm Castle and hold it as part of the Dalriada Festival.
Numbers-wise it sadly wasn't greatly supported by the bands, due in the main to holidays, and two of the three grades were "walk-overs" as only one band was entered.
However, it was nonetheless an inspired decision to make the venue switch, and if the Section officers and RSPBANI stick to their guns on Dalriada, this competition can grow and grow.
As for the grades that were competitive, two bands - Marlacoo and Portavogie - continue to make their considerable presence felt in the fourth tier.
In 4A Marlacoo, under pipe major Wayne Byrne and new leading tip Lee Lawson, have now secured five wins in six domestic starts (only the Mid-Ulster title eluded them), while they've also bagged the UK title.
They're certainties now for promotion, possibly even through 3B into 3A, but in the meantime they'll be wholly concentrating their efforts on today's Scottish Championship in Dumbarton followed by the Ulster and Worlds - and few will bet against them in what is proving to be a monumental year for the lads and lasses in MacLean of Duart tartan.
In 4B the band of the moment is Portavogie, which was only reformed last year by veteran tartan enthusiasts Sam Thompson and Andrew Drysdale after more than 50 years not sounding a note.
Under pipe major Malcolm Wallace and leading tip Winston Murdock, the Co Down outfit have been in clover for most of the season, where after having been runners-up in Bangor and Enniskillen, they've gone on to win at Cookstown, Lurgan, the all-Ireland in Omagh and now Glenarm. They too will travel to Glasgow in three weeks with extremely high hopes.
An interesting post-script last Saturday was that Gransha made their competitive reappearance (downgraded from 3B to 4B), and fielded a novice drum corps whose combined age was actually less than that of leading tip Sammy Smith!
Sadly for the youngsters, the band did compete but was duly disqualified over a registration discrepancy. But they'll be back and are among the entries for Lisburn, Rostrevor and Portrush during August. Glenarm results:
:: Grade two - 1 Thiepval Memorial (also best drums, best pipes, best bass).
:: Grade 3A - 1 Ballybriest (also best drums, best pipes, best bass).
:: Grade 3B - 1 Colmcille (also best drums, best pipes, best bass); 2 Finvoy.
:: Grade 4A - 1 Marlacoo & District (also best drums, best pipes, best bass); 2 McNeillstown; 3 Major Sinclair Memorial; 4 Raphoe.
:: Grade 4B - 1 Portavogie (also best drums, best piping, best bass); 2 McDonald Memorial; 3 Kildoag; 4 Ballydonaghy.
:: Adult - 1 Brian Wilson (Lomond & Clyde); 2 Lauren Hanna (Drumlough); 3 Paula Braiden (Cullybackey); 4 Alicia Dickson (Matt Boyd Memorial); 5 Andrea McKeown (Battlehill).
:: Juvenile - 1 Lauren Abraham (Ballybriest); 2 Zoe McDowell (Aughintober); 3 Caitlin Deborah Graham (Upper Crossgare); 4 Joanne Graham (William Kerr Memorial); 5 Gemma McDowell (Tullylagan).
:: Junior - 1 Beth Preston (Bessbrook Crimson Arrow); 2 Lana Gibson (Major Sinclair Memorial); 3 Jamie Cupples (Killeen); 4 Kara Gilmour (Ballybriest); 5 Kathryn McKeown (Battlehill).
:: Novice - 1 Charlotte Ruddock (Battlehill); 2 Kathy Hunter (Manorcunningham); 3 Abigail Wenlock (Cullybackey); 4 Leanne Crooks (Syerla & District); 5 Louis Anderson (Crozier Memorial).