Alistair Kennedy is relishing the opportunity of playing in his first AIIB National singles semi final at the Watson Stadium on Friday.
The Ballybrakes Community Club man will face 2011 champion, Belfast’s Mark McPeak, in what should be a titanic struggle.
Kennedy, who made his international breakthrough last season and is again included in the Ireland team for the 2014 Home Countries Series in March, admits the ‘underdog’ tag will rest easily on his shoulders ahead of his clash with McPeak.
“I regularly make it through to the last 16 of the singles, but this is the first time I’ve ever made it to the semi finals,” he said.
“I’ve quite a good record against Mark. I have played him twice before in the PBA singles qualifiers and have manage to beat him both times. The games went to a tie break, so they were very close as you would expect against a player of his calibre.
“Hopefully, I can make third time lucky. Obviously, Mark is a top player. He has been down this road before, having won the singles a few years back.
“He’ll go into the this game at a big favourite, but that suits me - I’m not expected to progress, so the pressure is off.
“I’m under no illusions about the task I face, but I have confidence in my own ability. I’m happy with my form, so hopefully it will all come together for me over the weekend.”
Kennedy has a double focus because he is also involved in the national pairs, partnering Barry Kane, for what will be a difficult assignment against Belfast’s Simon Martin and John McCullough.
“They don’t come much more difficult,” added Kennedy. “They are two superb players, international regulars, so we’ll have our work cut out. But we must focus on what we have to do to win the game. John is also involved in three disciplines, so he is certainly in for a busy few days.”
McPeak goes into the weekend action brimming with confidence. He begins his assault on national honours tomorrow morning, along with Stuart Benett and Roy Battersby in the triples.
They face a daunting mission against the title holders, Stephen Gibson, John McCullough and Mike Merritt, who are unbeaten over the past four years in this discipline.
Then McPeak will concenetrate on the singles on Saturday.
“It’s the one that everyone wants. The three other guys will be the same frame of mind,” said McPeak. “We’ve all played a heck of a lot of games to get this far. It would be nice to reach the final.”
AIIB National semi finals
Tomorrow: National triples, 6.30pm: JR Nicholl, M Nutt, T Robinson (CAIBC) v S Falls, D Smith, I McClure (BCIBC); S Gibson, J McCullough, M Merritt (BIBC) v M McPeak, S Bennett, R Battersby (BIBC). Saturday: Junior singles, 10am: M Jones (BCIBC) v S Coleman (CAIBC); G Kelly (BCIBC) v R Millar (BIBC).
National singles, 12.30pm: M McPeak (BIBC) v A Kennedy (BCIBC); B Kane (BCIBC) v J McCullough (BIBC). National fours, 10am: JR Nicholl, R Coleman, M Nutt, J Baker (CAIBC) v S Shields, T Robinson, G McKee, A Kyle (CAIBC); P Prunty, J McGetterick, R Battersby, P McEwan (BIBC) v S Falls, N Robinson, D Smith, I McClure (BCIBC). Senior fours, 11am: B Sloan, J Kilpatrick R Johnston, M Dunlop (BIBC) v E Armstrong, S Walker, C Stewart, M McCullagh (BCIBC). National pairs, 3pm: B Hughes, W McCaw (BCIBC) v D Nixon, M Merritt (BIBC); J McCullough, S Martin (BIBC) v A Kennedy, B Kane (BCIBC). Senior fours, 3pm: W McLearon, R Calvin, A Scott, H Elliott (BCIBC) v J Baird, R Coleman, J Caldwell, R McCune (CAIBC).
Meanwhile, Jonathan Ross yesterday maintained Northern Ireland’s interest in the Just Retirement World Bowls Singles Championship at Potters Leisure Resort by roaring to a straight sets win over England’s Les Gillett to reach in the quarter finals for the first time in 10 years.
Ross, who now wears the blue of Scotland having resided in Paisley for the past six years, won the opening set 7-6 and went on to dominate the second, clinching a slot against England’s Mervyn King tomorrow, with an 8-4 score.