Alex Marshall is fired up for showdown

Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin hosts a reception and exhibition match of short mat bowls at Stormont to recognise the development and success of the Irish Indoor Bowling Association.'Photographed with the Minister are Seamus Kyne, Honorary Secretary IIBA and David Sterritt, President IIBA.
Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin hosts a reception and exhibition match of short mat bowls at Stormont to recognise the development and success of the Irish Indoor Bowling Association.'Photographed with the Minister are Seamus Kyne, Honorary Secretary IIBA and David Sterritt, President IIBA.

Five times World singles champion Alex Marshall admits he is ‘relishing the challenge’ of reverting to short mat bowls over the weekend.

Marshall will be joined by his Scotland international team mate Paul Foster for the two day ‘singles and pairs challenge’ at Castlecaulfield Parish Hall.

They will compete against a posse of local players, who are steeped on short mat tradition.

Marshall and Foster wrote themselves into the record books at Potters Leisure Resort in January by becoming the first duo to win the world pairs title on three successive occasions.

Individually, they are also a class above the rest as Marshall has won the world singles on five occasions, while his big mate is only one behind.

“We are looking forward to it,” said Marshall. “I’ve only played short mat bowls twice before – one of those was a competition in Northern Ireland last March.

“Paul, however, has never played before, so it will be a new experience for him.

“I gather we will be facing some of the top short mat players in the country. It will be a daunting task or the both of us but we’ll give it our best shot.”

Marshall recently celebrated his 46th birthday by winning the Co-Operative Funeralcare International Open at Blackpool for the first time, defeating England’s Robert Paxton in the final.

“There are a number of good players coming through, it’s a difficult job to stay in the top 16 these days,” added Marshall.

“I’ve slipped to 13 in the World Bowls Tour ratings but Paul is second, just behind Greg Harlow.

“From a personal point, I take a great deal of satisfaction of becoming the first player to win the world singles for the fourth time back in 2008. It was a very proud moment.

“I’d like to think I still have a few good years in front of me. Paul is six years younger, so I sure he still have a few world titles on his radar.

“But these short mat games will be an entirely new challenge for us. We may we won a few world titles, but we’ll be starting as under dogs, there is no doubt that.”

The two-day bowls bonanza that gets under way tonight at Castlecaulfield has been put together by local bowls equipment supplier, Keith Wright, who is a sponsor of Marshall.

“It’s the first time two current world champions will be over here competing in short mat games,” he said. “What they have achieved is phenomenal - nine world indoor singles titles between and three world pairs.

“We also have a great line up of players to compete against them with Dessie Hamilton, the McHugh brothers, Liam and Colm, Rodney Cunningham and Graham McKee.”

Tickets are still on sale, priced at £10, but deals are available purchasing for both nights.

“It’s a chance for local bowls fans to see these guys in action at close quarters,” added Wright. “We’ve all watched them on television, now we have the chance to see them in a different environment – playing short mat.”

For ticket details, contact: 028 8776 7609 or 07817 252 852.

Singles: A Marshall, P Foster, D Hamilton, M Wilson, K Taylor, D Mills, C McHugh, L McHugh, R Cunningham, C Shortt, G McKee, G Burke, T Vance.

Pairs: C McHugh/K Campbell; D Irwin/T Burrows; E Clarke/G Burke; T Vance/C Shortt; D Hamilton/N Haire; M Wilson/C Hogg, K Wright/R Cunningham, G McKee/M Bailie.