Alistair Kennedy and Barry Kane will look to forge their way into their second successive final when they feature in the AIIB National pairs qualifier at the Watson Stadium on Sunday.
The Ballybrakes Community Stadium boys are still smarting following their defeat in last season’s final when they were edged out in a thrilling contest by Belfast’s David Nixon and Mike Merritt.
Kennedy and Kane have gleaned a certain degree of satisfaction already this season as they won the Professional Bowlers’ Association’s world pairs qualifier at Parkgate back in October.
They are now hoping to sustain that winning momentum when they line out against County Antrim’s Mark Tait and Rod Coleman in their opening fixture on Sunday morning.
“It’s always tough when you get down to the last 16,” said Kane. “Basically, you’ve just got to focus on one game at a time and now look too closely at the draw.
“We also have the world pairs to look forward do, but that’s a bit further down the line.”
But before they dare dream of walking out on to the famous blue portable rink at Potters Leisure Resort, they must negotiate a three-way play-off involving Hong Kong and Israel.
“We are due to face the Hong Kong pair on January 8 and then face Israel the following day,” added Kane. “We face a lot of bowling, even before the first round.
“We’ll obviously not know very much about our opponents until we get over there. It’s a big challenge, but we are looking forward to it.”
Should Kennedy and Kane negotiate their way into the main tournament, they are due to face former international team mate Johnny Ross and Wayne Hogg.
Ross has resided in Paisley for the past five years and now wears the blue of Scotland.
Meanwhile, the current title holders, Nixon and Merritt, are again back in the mix in the AIIB pairs qualifier. They will fancy their chances off seeing off their Belfast Stadium colleagues, Mark Lecky and Jim Frazer.
AIIB National Pairs qualifier: M Tait, R Coleman (CAIBC) v A Kennedy, B Kane (BCIBC); B Hughes, W McCaw (BCIBC) v M McPeak, S Bennett (BIBC); P Prunty, P McEwan (BIBC) v T Colvin, G McCloy (BCIBC); S Smith, I McClure (BCIBC) v C Eadie, D Corkill (BIBC); G McKee, M Nutt (CAIBC) v I Craig, N Mulholland (BIBC); S Gibson, R Battersby (BIBC) v T Robinson, A Kyle (CAIBC); S Ashwood, C Craig (BIBC) v A Coleman, S Coleman sen (CAIBC); D Nixon, M Merritt (BIBC) v M Lecky, J Frazer (BIBC).
Meanwhile, there is a possible all-Cookstown final on the cards in Jannuary’s month’s IIBA Club Championship.
Both Cookstown Parochial and Cookstown High have forged their way into the semi finals - they are joined by Strabane Cricket Club and Michelin.
The semi finals will be played on Saturday, January 3 at the Watson Stadium (11am) followed by the final. Both Cookstown sides have dominated the tournament, having lifted the crown six times in the last nine years.
Parochial have paraded the trophy on four occasions, with High celebrating a hat-trick of successes.
Their party was gate-crashed only by Clontibret (2007); Hillsborough (2011) and St Mark’s, Portadown, who are the current holders.
Parochial will face shock-troopers Michelin in the semis with High and Strabane Cricket Club clashing in the other tie.