Belmont’s Davy Hamilton admits his team will require little motivation ahead of the new outdoor bowls season.
The East Belfast club are still smarting following their demise in the Private Greens League Division One campaign last term when they were pipped at the post for the title by Ballymena.
It was an intriguing battle, with Belmont leading the way for much of the season, but the Sky Blues came with a late surge which earned them the championship for a third successive year.
“It took us a bit of time to come to terms with not only losing the title, but in the manner we lost it,” said Hamilton.
“Some people think it was the night we were beaten at Dunbarton. The game was washed out due to heavy rain with about eight ends to play.
“But by that stage, we were already 33 shots in arrears. We didn’t return to play out the game because by that stage the league was already lost, so we conceded the even points. We also had seen or eight players away on holiday.
“The reality is we shot ourselves in the foot the previous week at Ballymena. We established a 22 shots lead, but we let it slip. At one stage, we looked on course for six points but we finished up with only two.
“That was the game that ultimately cost us the title. Going into the final couple of weeks, we trailed Ballymena by 14 points but had two matches in hand. The result at Dunbarton then put the lid on our challenge.”
Belmont will rely on the same panel of players for the new challenge . They haven’t had their hand on the league title since 2003.
“We’ve no new players and there have been no departures,” added Hamilton.
“We’ve had a meeting and everyone is now more committed. Perhaps that was our problem last season because some players were unavailable for vital games.
“We were not too far off in making it a great season. We were on course for a treble trophy success for a long time.
“We ended up with the Private Greens League Senior Cup for the second successive year beating Ballymena in the final at Jordanstown.”
Belmont begin their league campaign with a banana skin trip to nearby Willowfield.
Hamilton adds: “It’s important to get off to a positive start. Obviously, the greens will be heavy over the first few weeks of the season, but it’s the same for both sides.”
Meanwhile, there is a mouth watering opening game featuring Balmoral and Whitehead in Division One of the Northern Ireland Bowling Association.
In the closest finish in the history of the tournament last season, the East Antrim boys had the title prised away from them by practically the last bowl, which handed the trophy to rivals Bangor.
Balmoral, who have snapped up young Kris Matchett from Lurgan, will also be looking to get off to the best possible start following their poor showing last term, having been crowned the champions 12 months earlier.
Private Greens League Division One: Pickie v Ulster Transport, Ewarts v Forth River, Willowfield v Belmont, Old Bleach v Larne, Dunbarton v Falls.
Division Two: NICS v Belmont Park, Ballywalter v Cliftonville, Ards v Shorts, Comber v Hilden, Salisbury v Mossley.
Division Three: Knock v Malone, Cavehill v Ballymena Park, Albert Foundry v Saintfield, PSNI v Shaftesbury, Belfast v North Belfast, Gallaher v Nortel.
PGL Junior Division One: Ulster Transport v Pickie, Larne v Old Bleach, Falls v Dunbarton, Belmont v Downpatrick, Mossley v Ballymena.
Division Two: Forth River v Ewarts, Cliftonville v Cavehill, Belmont Park v Willowfield, Hilden v Comber, Shaftesbury v Ards.
Northern Ireland Bowling Association Division One: Donaghadee v Dundonald, Divis v Lisnagarvey, Bangor v Castle, Banbridge v Portadown, Balmoral v Whitehead.
Division Two: Whitehead B v Balmoral B, Sydenham v Newtownabbey, Carrick v Dromore, Lurgan v Rathfriland, Londonderry Park v Dungannon.
Divison Three: Curran v Cloughey, Musgrave v Banbridge B, Markethill v Carrick B, Clarendon v Ulster Maple Leaf, Bessbrook v Ormeau.
Division Four: Holywood v Glengormley, Antrim v Newcastle, Finaghy v Queen’s Island, Lisnagarvey B v North Down, Annalong v St Stephen’s.
Division Five: Lagan Valley v Moat Park, Portadown B v Lurgan B, Dromore B vv BETS, 1st Ballymacarrett v Divis B, Warenpoint v Newry.
Provincial Bowling Association Senior League: City of Derry v Portrush, Ballymoney v Portglenone, Cookstown v Dunluce, Letterkenny v Ballycastle, Coleraine v Kilrea.