Mark McPeak began his assault on the AIIB National Championships by claiming a spot in the Triples semi finals that will be staged early in the New Year.
The Ireland international teamed up with Stuart Bennett and Roy Battersby for the qualifier at Parkgate and they came through with flying colours
They will now face the reigning champions, Stephen Gibson, John McCullough and Mike Merritt in the semis on January 10.
It was the first action for what will be a busy indoor campaign for McPeak as he has reached the last 16 in four national disciplines. He still has the singles, pairs and fours to come.
The Belfast player also has an important date to negotiate in next month’s Co-operative Funeral Care Scottish International Open, the first World Bowls Tour event of the season.
McPeak will line out against England’s Simon Skelton at Perth and faces the possibility of a head-to-head collision with his former Ireland team mate Jonathan Ross, who now wears the blue of Scotland, in the quarter finals - if both survive.
Rod Coleman, Andy Duncan and Graham McKee threatened to throw a spanner in the works in the opening game in the triples qualifier, but McPeak, Bennett and Battersby held their nerve when it mattered and they duly notched up a tense 11-10 victory. They then came up against their Belfast colleagues, John Martin, Mark Leckey and Paul McVeigh in the second round and again played the big shots when it mattered to clinch a 12-10 success.
Meanwhile, Gibson, McCullough and Merritt maintained their unbeaten record in the triples to claim a spot on the last four for the fourth successive year. Having lifted the title for the past three years, Gibson, McCullough and Merritt are now bang on course for another record-breaking feat.
They certainly had a couple of narrow escapes in their latest assault. They edged home on both games by only one shot.
“It was too close for comfort,” admitted McCullough.
“This is our fourth year playing together and we are still unbeaten on home soil. It’s unbelievable.
“The only time we have lost was in our three appearances in the British Isles Championships. But all three games were very close. We are just thrilled to be back in the Irish semi finals. It has been an amazing roller-coaster ride and, hopefully we can again go all the way.
“But we’ll be taking noting for granted. The semi final will be another battle.”
Gibson, McCullough and Merritt began their latest quest with an epic battle against Alistair Kennedy, Willie McCaw and Gary Kelly, from the Ballybrakes Community Stadium.
It went right to the wire before Merritt finally edged home 11-10. And, it was equally as tense in their second round clash with Alistair Coleman, Andy Kyle and Stephen Coleman, from the host club, who also agonisingly lost out by only one shot.
AIIB National Triples qualifier
JR Nicholl, M Nutt, T Robinson (CAIBC) 16 P Prunty, D Corkill, P McEwan (BIBC) 15; T Colvin, N Robinson, G McCloy (BCIBC) 12 M Martin, N Mulholland, S Martin (BIBC) 5; J Keff, F Murdock, J Nutt (BIBC) v J Baird, M McKenna, G McKenna (CAIBC) (match not played); N Gibson, S Hedley, C Craig (BIBC) 14 S Falls, D Smith, I McClure (BCIBC) 15; S Gibson, J McCullough, M Merritt (BIBC) 11 A Kennedy, W McCaw, G Kelly (BCIBC) 10; A Smith, C Campbell, J McGetterick 5 A Coleman, A Kyle, S Coleman (BCIBC) 16; W McLernon, S Walker, R Calvin (BCIBC) 2 J Martin, M Leckey, P McVeigh (BIBC) 21; R Coleman, A Duncan, G McKee (CAIBC) 10 M McPeak, S Bennett, R Battersby (BIBC 11).
Second round: Robinson 13 McCloy 3; McClure w/o; Merritt 13 Coleman 12; McVeigh 10 Battersby 12.
Semi finals (January 10): Robinson v McClure; Merritt v Battersby.
JETHRO RINKS LEAGUE
MORNING SECTION: W.Clinghan 19 (3) C.Maguire 10 (0), R.Hunter 8 (0) T.McCartan 20 (3), A.Magee 11 (1) C.Whitty 12 (3), M.Milligan 14 (1) W.Cairns 15 (3), W.Cousins 14 (3) J.Taylor 8 (0), R.Neely 10 (1) G.Richardson 12 (3).
AFTERNOON SECTION: W.Kinnon 14 (3) J.Mackle 8 (0), N.Conlon 13 (1) B.Boness 16 (3), S.Garvey 14 (3) G.Bell 8 (0), W.Martin 9 (0) L.Magennis 25 (3), N.Orr 16 (3) S.White 11 (1).