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Kelly back on the title trail in AIIB National Singles Championship

Gary Kelly

Gary Kelly

Gary Kelly wants to make up for lost time in the AIIB National Singles at the Ballybrakes Community Club, Ballymoney, on Saturday.

The Irish international has again battled his way into the last 16 play-off, but this time he is raring to go after being ruled out last season due to injury.

Kelly, however, faces a daunting opening test against Belfast’s Clifford Craig.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” admitted Kelly, who will be performing on his home carpet.

“I got through to the last 16 in the Singles and Under-25 last season, but had to pull out due to a back injury -- it was very disappointing.

“But I’ve already booked a place in the last four of the junior singles next month, so I would love to make it a double.

“It’s possibly the toughest draw against big Clifford. I’ll need to be at my best.”

Kelly last paraded the Irish title back in the 2008-09 season.

He went on to reach the final of the British singles, but narrowly lost out to Ross Tomlinson, of Wales.

“It’s quite a line up for the singles this season, with something like four past winners involved,” added Kelly.

“There are no easy matches, that’s for sure. You have to be physically and mentally prepared. There are only four places up for grabs, so it’s going to be quite a battle.”

Meanwhile, family ties will be severed, for a few hours at least, as the Colemans are on collision course.

Experienced Rod will go head to head with his nephew Alistair, who was unlucky beaten in the semi final of the WIBC Under-25 singles in Glasgow last weekend.

It’s not the first time they’ve met on the competitive stage. They also locked horns two years ago when Rod went all the way to the final, only to agonisingly lose out by one shot to Mark McPeak.

“I’m sure Alistair will come looking for revenge, but I’ll be ready,” quipped Rod, whose brother Stephen -- Alistair’s dad -- is also involved.

He comes up against Belfast’s John McCullough, who has also qualified for the semi final of the pairs and triples.

Ian McClure, who only returned to the Province last Saturday after competing in the World Champion off Champions singles in New Zealand, will also be looking to enhance his reputation in the event.

The Irish international is on the scent of his third Irish singles success, but faces a difficult opener against his Ballybrakes Community Club chum, Barry Kane.

“It’s always difficult when you reach this stage,” said McClure.

“Every game will be difficult. I won the title for the first time back in 1991, which seems like a lifetime ago.

“But I had to wait 18 years before I got my hands on the trophy again – that says it all. If you look too far ahead, that’s when you hit trouble – you’ve got to take one game at a time in this tournament,” he adds.

Title holder Simon Martin, who lifted the trophy for the first time following a victory over Stephen Gibson, continues his defence with an outing against County Antrim’s Trevor Robinson.

And, the 2011 champion, Mark McPeak, is also back in the mix.

The Irish international will line out against his Belfast team mate Chris Eadie in his opener.

Fixtures

AIIB National singles qualifier: S Martin (BIBC) v T Robinson (CAIBC), M McPeak (BIBC) v C Eadie (BIBC), A Kennedy (BCIBC) v S Bennett (BIBC), S Gibson (BIBC) v P Prunty (BIBC), B Kane (BCIBC) v I McClure (BCIBC), A Coleman (CAIBC) v R Coleman (CAIBC), G Kelly (BCIBC) v C Craig (BIBC), S Coleman sen (CAIBC) v J McCullough (BIBC).

 

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