There will be a new look to the Provincial side when they begin the defence of their IBA Under-25 Inter-Association Championship at Belmont on Friday night.
Having lifted the crown by the narrowest of margins last season, pipping the NIBA to the title, the Provincial selectors have drafted six new players into their squad.
In for their first taste of action at this level come Cookstown’s Aaron Ward, Anthony Clyde, from Dunluce, Andrew Millar, who plays for Portglenone, and Coleraine’s Owen Steele.
Michael Gallagher (Letterkenny) and Portglenone’s Adam Jones, who are listed as reserves, are also introduced to the Under-25 set-up.
“We lost quite a few from last season,” said selector Jimmy Hagan. “Simon Colvin and Robert Allen are off to Australia . . . . although Simon is now overage.
“Portstewart lad Gareth McClean is taking time out to concentrate on exams, while Richard Kincaid is out due to the age limit.
“Gary Kelly’s rink of Mark McCracken, Adam Hunter and Chris Brogan is the only one to remain intact from last year. It means we will have three new skips on show -- Daniel O’Kane, Owen Steele and Aaron Tennant.”
Ward is drafted in at second in O’Kane’s combination. Clyde, who is only 17, and Millar (20), are also introduced at second in the combinations skipped by Tennant and Steele.
The Provincials get the Series off to a difficult start against the Private Greens League.
“Even with all the changes, we still have a fair amout of experience with strong back ends,” added Hagan. “O’Kane will have no problem slotting in with his big Letterkenny team mate Jonathan Jacob.
“Tennant has the experience of making his senior Ireland international debut at Leamington Spa a few weeks back . . . he’ll have John Paul Fahy at third. The boys did extremely well to win the title last year. Hopefully, they will give another good account of themselves.”
Old Bleach kid Stephen Kirkwood has been handed a Private Greens League in tomorrow night’s opener.
Kirkwood, who moved from Hilden to the Randalstown at the start of the season, is the only new face in the starting line-up.
Meanwhile, the NIBA selectors have said ‘same again’ to the team that was pipped to the title by the Provincials, when a final bowl winner by Irish international Gary Kelly took the trophy to the North West.
With George Carson not involved in bowls this season, Lisnagarvey’s Scott Jess moves from the substitutes’ bench to fill the gap in their opening match of the two-day event against the Bowling League of Ireland tomorrow night also at Belmont.”Fortunately, we didn’t lose anyone due to the age restriction which was a bonus,” said NIBA official Stephen Moran.
“Markethill’s Nathan Hawthorne has been drafted in as reserve for the first time, while Peter Morgan from Rathfriland has earned a recall.”
He is drafted in to the rink skipped by Ballymena’s Alistair Coleman, who has Irish international Stephen Shields at lead and Dunbarton’s Jack Moffat at third.
NIBA: Rink One: S Jess (Lisnagarvey), A Mitchell (Balmoral), K Matchett (Balmoral), M Crawford (Bangor).
Rink Two: A Johnston (Dromore), JD Allen (Londonderry Park), S Beggs (Whitehead), C Dorman (Donaghadee).
Rink Three: M Hastings (Bangor), T Carson (Banor), T McClean (Sydenham), A Patterson (Bangor).
Rink Four: J Montgomery (Whitehead), R Millar (Lurgan), C Mullen (Newtownabbey), W Boyd (Donaghadee).
Reserves: C Gaw (Donaghadee), N Hawthorne (Markethill), P Morgan (Rathfriland).
Private Greens League: Rink One: D Witherspoon (Larne), R Cavan (Pickie), N Todd (Larne), T Crawford (Belmont).
Rink Two: G Robinson (Salisbury), M Wilson (Ballymena), R Bell (Mossley), R Kirkwood (Old Bleach).
FULL LIST at www.newsletter.co.uk
Rink Three: S Shields (Ballymena), S Kirkwood (Old Bleach). J Moffat (Dunbarton), A Coleman (Ballymena).
Rink Four: D Mills (Pickie), G Caughey (Pickie), C Snoddy (Larne), C Mullen (Forth River).
Reserves: M Adamson (Dunbarton), S Barkley (Old Bleach), R McElroy (Dunbarton).
Provincial BA: Rink One: M McCracken (Cookstown), A Hunter (Portglenone), C Brogan (Ballymoney), G Kelly (Ballymoney).
Rink Two: A Wright (Cookstown), A Ward (Cookstown), J Jacob (Letterkenny), D O’Kane (Letterkenny).
Rink Three: M Mason (Coleraine), A Millar (Portglenone), M Jones (Portglenone), O Steele (Coleraine).
Rink Four: A Wilson (Portrush), A Clyde (Dunluce), JP Fahy (Brooke Park), A Tennant (Ballymoney).
Reserves: M Gallagher (Letterkenny), A Jones (Portglenone), K Lynch (City of Derry), M Steen (Coleraine).
Bowling League of Ireland (squad): J Byrne, M McDonagh, R Moore, C Turner, J Lyons, K Daly, P Ward (all Crumlin); D Kennedy (Dun Laogharie); S Leonard, G Pierpoint, B Byrne, A O’Keeffe (All St James’s Gate); A Kells, C Carrick, Z Martin (all Railway Union); S Wolfe (ICICYMA); J Hynes (Rosslare); T Smyth (Leinster); C Nugent (Blackrock), A Murphy (CYM).
Programme: Tomorrow night (6.30pm): NIBA v BLI; NIPBA v NIPGL.
Saturday morning (9.30am): NIPBA v NIBA; NIPGL v BLI.
Saturday afternoon (2pm): NIBA v NIPGL; NIPBA v BLI.