BOWLS: Holders Kevin and Sean Conroy preparing to put their IIBA National pairs title on the line

St Anthonys Nathan Haire (left) and Terry Crawford with Ballybrakes club president Alice Elliott at the recent pairs tournament won by the Craigavon-based players.
St Anthonys Nathan Haire (left) and Terry Crawford with Ballybrakes club president Alice Elliott at the recent pairs tournament won by the Craigavon-based players.

Holders Kevin and Sean Conroy will put their IIBA National pairs title on the line at the Watson Stadium on Saturday morning (10.30am).

The Redeemer duo – a father and son combination – defeated Clontibret’s Malachy Trainor, senior and junior, in last year’s final which guaranteed them the trophy for the first time.

They are now on the starting grid with 35 other title pretenders, that includes a number of former winners. Cookstown Parochial McHugh brothers, Colm and Liam, who racked up wins in 1993, 2002 and 2005, will be among the favourites to go the distance, along with the 2007 champions, Gordon and Raymond Stubbs from Ballinderry.

And, just to keep it in the family, the Christie brothers, Graham and Peter, from Spa Golf Club, are also back on the hunt of the trophy they last hand their hands on in 2004.

However, under new IIBA rules, competitors will not know their opponents until they arrive at the Shaws Bridge venue on the morning of the qualifier.

Chairman Harold Massey explains: “A decision was taken by the IIBA’s Executive Committee not put publish draws for the National Championships; The Club Championships and the Champion of Champions,” he said.

“There are a number of reasons. When the draws were published in the past, some players decided not turn up in the event of them being drawn against any of the tournament favourites which was hardly ideal, especially for the organisers.

“Under the new system, people will not know who they play until they arrive at the venue. We view it as a fair way to do it.”

The National Triples; Ladies singles and pairs and Junior pairs will also be played down to the final stage at the weekend.

Former triples champs, Ballinderry’s Gordon Stubbs, Paul Reid and Raymond Stubbs, the 2012 winners, are among the 25 starters.

They are joined by the 1993 title winners from Spa Golf Club, Colin Wilson, Paul McNamara and Alan Laughlin, while the Glenburn Methodist triple, skipped by JR Graham, who lifted the crown back in 1992, are back on the scent.

Meanwhile, there are no prizes for guessing that Pauline Beattie is back on course to retain the Ladies singles title.

The St Mark’s (Portadown), player lifted the trophy for a record breaking seventh time last season, following an 18-3 win against Aghagallon’s Marie Corey in the final.

Beattie will once again have the favourites’ mantle dangling around her neck.

But she may not have everything her own way due to the fact that former winners, Lynn Hamilton (2012), Breige Davidson (2011) and Linda Carelton are all back in the frame.

Beattie will be on a double mission due to the fact she will also be involved in the pairs along with her mum Mae Cassells.

Also among the 18 starting combinations is Ireland’s former queen of bowls, Margaret Johnston.

The Junior pairs will also be played down to the final stage, with title holder Adam McKeown back to defend his trophy.

* Nathan Haire and Terry Crawford, from St Anthony’s, Portadown, walked off with the top prize in the Ballybrakes Stadium’s Round Robin Short mat pairs tournament at Ballymoney last weekend.

They defeated Graham and Michael Wilson, from Michelin, by one shot in a hotly contested final.

The Spoon tournament was won by Mark McKeown and Adrian Carson, from Dunluce, who defeated Broughshane’s Adrian McCaw 12-7.

Shauna O’Neill and Adam Rankin, from Limavady enjoyed an impressive 10-3 victory over Darren Erskine (Rosemount) to win the Plate competition.

* Entries are now invited for the Killyman Bowls Club’s Open pairs tournament.

The competition will take place in Killyman Prochial Hall, starting on Monday, March 14, continuing nightly until Friday 18. Finals are scheduled for Saturday, March 19.

Entry fee is £6 per pair. Entries to Ida Eldon (028 87722713) or Mrs V McIvor (028 87729291).