Belfast’s Stuart Bennett and Mark McPeak face a gruelling preliminary round challenge before they can even start contemplating taking their place in next month’s World Indoor Pairs Championship at Potters Leisure Resort.
The Irish duo booked their slot on the big stage by winning the Professional Players’ Association qualifier at the Baker Stadium back in October.
But with a round one tie against their former Ireland team mate Jonathan Ross and Wales’ Robert Weale up for grabs, Bennett and McPeak must first negotiate a three-way shoot-out in their preliminary group.
And, should they manage to top their section, they’ll then go head-to-head in a play-off against the winners off another section!
“It will be tough, but we are up for it,” said McPeak, who has performed on the famous blue portable rink on both singles and pairs combat on previous occasions. In contrast, it will be Bennett’s Potters debut.
“You can’t afford to look to far ahead, just take one game at a time. We’ll see where it takes us.”
Bennett and McPeak will face South Africa’s Shawn Nell and Anslem McLean in their opening match on January 9. Also in the section are Israel’s Harris Green and Daniel Alonin, whom the Irish pair will face the following day.
In other section, Neil Furman and Bill Brualt will battle it out with three other pairs, Steve Halmia and Jason Carpenter (New Zealand); Kevin Jones and Laura Hudson (Canada) and Ken Chan and Robin Chok, from China.
The winners of both groups will then play-off for the right to face Ross and Weale on January 11 in the first round proper.
World pairs draw, first round: D Burnett, S Anderson (Scotland) v R Chisholm, R Owen (Wales); J Price, J Greenslade (Wales) v England play-off winners; J Ross (Scotland), R Weale (Wales) v Preliminary play-off winners; G Harlow, N Brett (England) v A Barker, M Stepney (Scotland).
Round two: P Foster, A Marshall (Scotland) v winners off Anderson/Owen; R Paxton, S Skelton (England) v winners off Greenslade/England winners; A Thomson, M Royal (England) v winners off Weale/Preliminary qualifier; D Gourlay (Scotland), M King (England) v winners of Brett/Stepney.
n Barry Kane may have a big date in the AIIB National singles semi final to look forward to next month, but he’ll have important short mat business to attend to before that. The Bushmills man has battled his way through to the North Eastern zone’s national singles and triples finals, to be staged at Quay Road Hall, Ballycastle, on Monday, January 6 (7pm).
With a place in the National finals at Shaws Bridge in March up for grabs, Kane, from Dunluce Parish, will face Martin McAleese (St Colman’s) in the singles . He’ll then line out against Paul Moore (Bushmills Presbyterian) in the triples qualifier.
“January is going to be hectic, especially the early part of the month,” said Kane. “I’ll have the zone finals first before the Irish singles semi final against John McCullough.
“It’s a big challenge and great opportunity. I’m really looking forward to it.”
The full programme is: National Singles: Martin McAleese (St Colman’s) v Barry Kane (Dunluce Parish)
National pairs: Davy Walker (St Colman’s) v Mervyn McKeeman (Cushendall).
National Triples: Barry Kane (Dunluce Parish) v Paul Moore (Bushmills Presbyterian).
National Fours: Davy Walker (St Colman’s) v Terence McGarry (Loughguile).
Ladies singles: S Breadon (Dunluce Presbyterian) v Nora O’Kane (St Olcan’s).
Ladies pairs: Nora O’Kane (St Olcan’s) v Doreen Hughes (Dunluce Presbyterian).
Ladies triples: Jean Sharpe (Dunluce Presbyterian) v Nora O’Kane (St Olcan’s). Over 55s pairs: John Simpson (St Colman’s) v Nora O’Kane (St Olcan’s).