Ireland boss Roy McCune is urging home supporters to rally behind his team in the 2014 Under-25 Home International Series at the County Antrim Indoor Bowls Club over the weekend.
The young Irish side have never had their hands on the ‘Brimble Cup’ and, even though they face a daunting challenge against the might of England and Scotland, they are hoping to change the trend on their home carpets.
McCune insists the crowd can play a big part. He said: It’s something we are not used to, but it will certainly help if everyone gets behind the boys.
“It’s not often we get the chance to host the British Isles Series, so it’s a great opportunity for local bowlers to come out and give the boys a bit of backing as the other countries will be bringing over many supporters.
“It’s probably one of the youngest teams we’ve ever had, so they will appreciated all the encouragement they can get.”
McCune is hoping the team can build on last season’s performance at Newport. Even though they consumed a heavy opening defeat by England, their display against Wales and Scotland pleased the manager.
He said: “We were being well beaten by an England side that was on top of their game. To be honest, their Under-25 team could well give their senior side a run for their money
“But the boys showed great resilience to produce a battling display in the next game against Wales. Only eight shots separated the teams at the finish. So that was a big plus in terms of the team not letting their heads drop after the England result.
“Although we were beaten in our final game by Scotland, again the team showed their battling qualities, losing out by only 12 shots. It’s important to now build on those two performances.”
Stephen Kirkwood and Stephen Shields are drafted into the team for the first time, but Ireland have lost Simon Colvin due to the age restriction, while Jamie Brown is unavailable.
Terry Crawford will take over Colvin’s skipping duties.
McCune adds: “Stephen Kirkwood narrowly missed out on selection last season. He is a regular in the squad and he has been showing up well in the trial games.
“Stephen Shields has made great progress in the outdoor game. He is also a member off the senior international panel, so he will be a big asset to the group.
“And, we are still bringing lot of players through from Under 18 and Under 25 level. We have two young new talents named in the reserve panel in Conor Prunty and 14 year old Michael Hedley. They have the potential to go a long way. Also, Andrew Johnston and Mitchell Albert were very close to selection.”
Ireland begin their assault on Saturday morning against Scotland before lining out against England in the evening session.
Wales then provide the opposition on Sunday morning.
Ireland Under-25 team:
Rink one: K Matchett (BIBC), Stephen Coleman jnr (CAIBC), S Shields (CAIBC), A Duncan (CAIBC). Rink two: D Atkinson (CAIBC), Stuart Coleman (CAIBC), G Carson (BIBC), A Coleman (CAIBC).
Rink three: J Watson (BIBC), C Brogan (BCIBC), R Allen (BCIBC), G Kelly (BCIBC). Rink four: R Millar (BIBC), S Kirkwood (BIBC), R Kirkwood (BIBC), T Crawford (BIBC).
Reserves: M Albert (BIBC), A Johnston (BIBC), C Prunty (BIBC), M Hedley (BIBC).
Programme: Saturday, 10am: Ireland v Scotland; England v Wales.
Saturday, 7pm: Ireland v England, Scotland ve Wales.
Sunday, 9.15am: Ireland v Wales; Scotland v England.
o Newly crowned English Masters champion, Cecil Dillon, tomorrow returns to the ‘bread and butter’ issues of the short mat game when he features for West Down against Armagh in the final of the IIBA Men’s Plate tournament at Loughbrickland.
o More at www.newsletter.co.uk
Dillon, who has been in superb form in the Short Mat Players’ Tour this season, will come up against a player that has also enjoyed a large degree of success on foreign soil, Armagh’s Joe Beattie.
The Plate tournament is contested by first round losers in the main competition - the Boomer Cup. Armagh lifted the trophy for the fifth time last season, but were dumped out in their opening defence by Oriel.
However, they should be too strong for their local rivals on this occasion.
Incredibly, it’s a similar scenario in the Women’s tournament, where Oriel make the long journey to face Cork.
In a strange quirk off fate, Oriel, who lifted the McIlroy Cup for only the second time last season, were eliminated in round one earlier this term by Armagh.
They will start a strong favourites to grab some consolation by lifting the Plate this time around.