ALTHOUGH entries may have dwindled over recent years, the Brunner Cup is still regarded as the premier team competition in Cheshire Bowls.

And it still resonates nationally – bowlers from other counties know about its history and prestige and possibly only the Yorkshire County Cup can rank alongside it in terms of national recognition.

Castle Sports are looking to capture their second Brunner Cup this Saturday at Runcorn Subscription Club, Moughland Lane, Runcorn with play starting at 2pm.

The first and only win for Castle in the Brunner Cup came in the 2017 season, when they defeated Lloyds Hotel at Wilmslow RBL.

Castle’s stature in the competition has grown over recent seasons and this will be their 4th appearance in the final in the last eight runnings of the competition.

Two narrow losses to Lloyds in 2013 and Wharton Cons in 2019 means 2017 is still the only time since the competition began in 1910 that the trophy has made its way to the David Street venue.

Standing in the way of Castle this year is Houldsworth WMC from Reddish. Houldsworth are themselves two times winners of the competition in 1976 & 2011.

Houldsworth’s most recent final appearance also ended in defeat when they lost a close encounter with Gladstone Libs at Comberbach in 2016.

Considering their 10-year drought in reclaiming the Brunner Cup, Houldsworth have gone on a player recruitment drive over the last few years and now much of their team hails from Warrington rather than the club’s Reddish base.

The players recruited are well established competition and county players.

When play gets underway in Runcorn, unsurprisingly both teams have looked to make a strong start.

Castle lead the way by putting on Andy Hamman – the current Cheshire Merit Champion – in the first game where he will play John Brown.

Castle then go for experience in the second game of the day when Jason Cornes takes to the green – Cornes is himself a three-time winner of the Cheshire Merit with over 100 Cheshire Caps to his name. His opponent on the day will be Damian Morrison.

The third game on sees Castle opt for Cheshire County away team captain Robert Winnington, with Rob facing Alan Manuel.

The fourth game of the first four jacks sees Matty Hamman – younger brother of Andy – take to the green for Castle against Lee Johnstone.

Moving into the middle four games, John Gurney is the fifth jack on for Castle.

Gurney is the longest-serving member of the Castle team and has multiple open competition wins over the years. Castle will be hoping that his skill and experience produces a positive result against former Waterloo winner Carl Armitage.

The sixth game up pits Castle’s Steven Morrey, two-time Cheshire Merit winner, against Larry Wells.

Castle’s very own giant Paul Mackie is the seventh game on the green and Paul will play Dave Bennett.

Another player off the Castle production line of home-grown talent is the eighth game of the day – Steven Baskerville meets Glen Beeley, who himself is a player that came through the ranks at Houldsworth.

The final four jacks of the final see Castle hoping for the local knowledge of Kevin Duncalf to get them off to a positive start in what could prove to be the decisive part of the final. Kevin comes up against George Chadwick.

Ian Howell faces possibly the hardest task for Castle in game 10 when he meets Tommy Johnstone, however Castle’s hero in the win over Lloyds in 2017 will be buoyed by his recent personal record in Brunner Cup finals.

The penultimate game of the day see’s two ex-Sale XL players and current Cheshire County teammates take to the green when David O'Brien plays against Neil Smith.

The final game of the day sees Castle again going for experience with Paul Dooley who will play Ged Smedley in a game that could decide this year’s destination of the Brunner Cup.

Tom Vickers continued his excellent recent form on Saturday when he claimed the Tony Whitney Memorial Trophy.

This was Tom’s fourth title is as many weeks as won the final comfortably against John Brown of Warrington 21-8.

Kevin Duncalf and John Gurney of Castle Sports picked up the Norley Pairs Trophy on Sunday at Comberbach.

The final was an all-Castle affair, with Kevin and John prevailing against Adi Faulkner and Phil Scott 21-10.