Simon Martin and Gary Kelly given key roles with Ireland

Gary Kelly

Gary Kelly

Simon Martin and Gary Kelly have been handed key roles for Ireland’s 2014 Home International title push at Stanley Indoor Bowls Club in March.

With County Antrim duo Brendan Thompson and Neil Booth opting out of the indoor circuit this season, the Irish selectors had the job of replacing two of the country’s most experienced skips.

Belfast’s Martin and Kelly, from the Ballybrakes Community Club, have been handed the responsibility in a team that finished third in last season’s international campaign.

County Antrim’s Graham McKee has been recalled to the side, while Belfast’s Paul Prunty is given his first taste of action at this level.

“We lost two very experienced players in Thompson and Booth,” said Irish boss Roy McCune. “But in many ways, it opened the door for someone else.

“Kelly has skipped on previous occasions for the international team, but Martin is reverting from lead, which is a big change. Both players showed up well in our preparation and, I’ve no doubt they can be a big success in this role.”

McCune also stated that new boy Prunty deserves his Ireland debut.

“He had fantastic displays in the Inter-Club Series,” he added. “Paul also performed with a high level of consistency in our trial games, so he is in on merit.

“Graham McKee is back which is also a bonus. He missed out last season due to a discipline reason, but he will certainly be an asset.”

Ireland narrowly lost their opening game to Scotland (107-94) last season before suffering a 121-84 defeat to England.

But they produced their best performance of the campaign in their final outing by beating Wales (116-101).

“We were forced to make quite substantial changes last season simply because performances dropped off in previous campaigns,” added McCune.

“A few years back, we were competing for the title -- we were a serious challenge to the other nations, but we failed to match that. Prior to last season, the performances fell below expectations.

“But we pushed Scotland right to the wire and then defeated Wales. Granted, we were disappointed with the display against England, but there was improvement.

“Based on that, and taking into consideration that we needed to replace two experienced skips, the selectors decided not to make drastic alterations.

“The boys deserved another chance . . . and hopefully they can deliver.”

The International Series will be held at the County Durham venue from Thursday-Saturday, March 13-15.

Ireland: Rink one: S Falls (BCIBC), D Smith (BCIBC), J Talbot (CAIBC), I McClure (BCIBC).

Rink two: C Eadie (BIBC), S Gibson (BIBC), G McCloy (BCIBC), C Craig (BIBC).

Rink three: JR Nicholl (CAIBC), A Coleman (CAIBC), J McCullough (BIBC), S Coleman sen (CAIBC).

Rink four: A Kennedy (BCIBC), P McEwan (BIBC), D Corkill (BIBC), G Kelly (BCIBC).

Rink five: P Prunty (BIBC), R Battersby (BIBC), G McKee (CAIBC), S Martin (BIBC).

Rink six: M McPeak (BIBC), S Bennett (BIBC), B Kane (BCIBC), A Kyle (CAIBC).

Reserves: N Mulholland (BIBC), S Shields (CAIBC).




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