Ireland boss Colin Campbell admits his boys face a ‘massive test’ in the British Under-25 Indoor Home International Series at Bristol over the weekend.
The fledgling Irish side go in against the might of the other three nations with aspirations of registering a victory for the first time in 10 years.
It was back in 2006 at the Baker Stadium when the Irish last toasted that success. However, they will again be the youngest team of the four nations on show and new manager Campbell insists it’s still very much a learning curve for most of them.
“We lost a huge chunk of experience in terms of players reaching the age limit last season, but that is part and parcel of this tournament,” said Campbell.
“There is only one alteration to the team with Mitchell Albert coming back into the side.
“It’s is all part of their growth and development. It gives these lads an opportunity of competing in an international environment. It gives them a taste of the international atmosphere at this level.”
It’s hardly surprising Ireland’s aspirations of lifting the title for the first time every may have to be shelved a little while longer. In many ways it takes the pressure of this young breed of players as they basically have nothing to lose.
“The other nations have a huge amount of players to choose from,” added Campbell. “We are not in that position. It will be an inexperienced group. Most of them are only developing at this level. The experience of playing against this sort of opposition will be a steep learning curve.
“The Under-18 and the Under-25 teams are a breeding ground for the senior squad. We have the Kirkwood brothers, Robert and Stephen, making their senior debut next month. They will join four other boys that have already made the step up.”
Albert, the only change, will come in as skip for the first time, while Darren Atkinson will captain the side, also for the first time.
Rink one: R Miller (BIBC), C Prunty (BIBC), S Jess (BIBC), D Atkinson (BIBC).
Rink two: D Mills (BIBC), S Coleman (CAIBC), A Johnston (BIBC), S Kirkwood (BIBC).
Rink three: S Barkley (CAIBC), M Hedley (BIBC), J Watson (BIBC), R Kirkwood (BIBC).
Rink four: A Coleman (CAIBC), J Millar (BCIBC), S Begg (CAIBC), M Albert (CAIBC).
Reserves: JP Fahy (BCIBC), S Martin (BCIBC).
Saturday: Scotland v Ireland: (C Taggart v D Atkinson; R Clarke v S Kirkwood; C Milne v R Kirkwood; M O’Hagan v M Albert).
England v Wales (J Walker v J Breen; P Martin v D Salmon; R Atkins v R Owen; B Coles v L Bouse).
England v Ireland (P Martin v S Kirkwood; R Atkins v R Kirkwood; B Coles v M Albert; J Walker v D Atkinson).
Scotland v Wales (M O’Hagan v L Bouse; C Taggart v R Owen; R Clark v D Salmon; C Milne v J Breen).
Sunday: Ireland v Wales (M Albert v R Owen; D Atkinson v D Salmon; S Kirkwood v J Breen; R Kirkwood v L Bouse).
England v Scotland (P Martin v C Taggart; R Atkinson v R Clark; B Coles v C Milne; J Walker v M O’Hagan.
Six times World indoor Bowls singles champion, Alex Marshall, was in town this week.
The Scotland international hosted a Demo Day and Road Show at the Watson Stadium.
Marshall, known to most of his friends as Tattie, is one of the most decorated players in the history of the game.
But is was his role of sales manager at AeroBowls that brought him to Belfast.
“It was basically a chance to bowlers to come along to try out and see our products,” said the multiple World Champion.
“I was really pleased with the response. I always enjoy my trips to Northern Ireland.”
Meanwhile, Ballybrakes Community Indoor Bowls Club is hosting a Round Robin Short Mat pairs tournament on Saturday, February 27 with a whopping prize found of £1425 up for grabs.
Entry fee is £25. Entries - only the first 96 will be accepted - to Donna McCloy (07764 469006), or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, anyone interested can use the Ballybrakes CIBC facebook page.