Oriel’s Kevin Conroy is hoping to close in another world title at the Watson Stadium over the weekend.
Following his recent singles success in the 2014 World Shot Mat Bowls Championships at the National Sports Centre, Cardiff, the Redeemer player will be joined by 251 other title pretenders for a three-day bonanza.
This time Conroy, and a posse of his Ireland team mates, will feature in the Short Mat Players Tour World Masters at the South Belfast venue.
With 42 groups of six on the starting grid, it’s certain to be a daunting test test of character. Conroy has been drawn in the same section as Gareth Wilkinson, Paul Canning, David Peden, Jamie Glackin and England’s Chris Mann.
“It will be a big challenge,” said the current world singles title holder. “It’s going to be a test of physical and mental strength.
“The best short mat players in the country will be in action along with a host of players from other countries. I’ll just focus on one game at a time and hopefully I can get through to the knockout stages.”
Conroy is joined by the husband and wife combination, Joe and Pauline Beattie, who won the world pairs title in Wales, while Clarke Hill and Alan Paul - members of the Irish side that lifted the world triples crown - will also be on the scent of the Masters trophy.
Joe Beattie, who won the Swedish Masters back in January, is still in the running of topping the SMPT World rankings -- he is one of four Ireland players in the top five.
Cecil Dillon currently leads the race for the Henselite Order of Merit trophy and £250, followed by Belgium’s Dimitri Payne, with Beattie, Jal Richardson and Mark Beattie in the chasing pack.
Joe Beattie has been drawn in a difficult section, which includes Graham McKee, David McRandal, Gerald Morgan,Davvid Gourlay and England’s Steve Puttock.
Richardson will also have his work cut out against Gerry McCabe, Keith Taylor, Hugh Trainor, Marty McNicholl and Alan McKee.Mark Beattie will come up against the new world triples champion Paul, England’s John Lax, Colm Donaldson, Nichola Brown and Chris Snoddy.
Leader of the pack Dillon, who won the English Masters back in February, has been pitched with Sweden’s Jonas Hagar, Dom Reed, from England, Brian McCoy, Michael Lynch and Calvib Heaverin.
Meanwhile, Short Mat Players’ Tour director Phil Mills is thrilled with the response to the World Masters, which had the ‘house full’ signs up for some time.
“The interest, not only in this tournament, but all the Tour events, has been brilliant,” he said. “Believe it or not, we’ll have four players coming over from the United Arab Emirates.
“They will be making the 7000 mile round trip from the Middle East to Northern Ireland and in doing so will become the first short mat bowlers to represent their country in the international arena.
The United Arab Emirates will be the 14th nation to compete in a Short Mat Players Tour event. The Watson Stadium is a great venue.”
l It was all change at the Irish Indoor Bowling Association’s Annual General Meeting at the Templeton Hotel on Tuesday night.
The main officer bearers stepped down from their respective posts, with Chairman David Hunter, President David Sterritt and Competitions Secretary Jim McIlroy all relinquishing positions they have held for many years.
Armagh zone convener Flo McNally was voted in as the new President of the Association with Harold Massey taking on the position of Chairman.
Monaghan’s Charlott Adair is the new Competitions Secretary.
Artie Rice and Wilfred Crawford were re-elected as Honorary Secretary and Hononary Treasurer respectively.