BOWLS: Irish team are up for Home International test

Old Bleach's Stephen Kirkwood
Old Bleach's Stephen Kirkwood

Ireland boss Michael Nutt believes his revamped side can make an impact on the 2016 Under-25 Home International Series - even though there will be six new faces on show at Eglin in Scotland over the weekend.

Nutt and the Irish selectors were forced to reshape to side, having lost a number of the team that featured at this level last season.

Stephen Kirkwood is due to make his debut at this level along with Sam Barkley Ryan Cavan, Jack Moffett, JP Fahy and Jordan McBride.

Nutt’s problems mounted as age caught up with the likes of Chris Brogan, Chris Snoddy, Jack Montgomery, Shane Leonard and Thomas Carson, while Scott Jess and Terry Crawford are unavailable for the weekend’s action.

However, Nutt believes the new faces can strengthen, rather than weaken the team. He beamed: “It’s an indication of the excellent development work happening at club and association level that, even with seven players leaving the squad, we are able to replacement them with confidence.

“Several of the lads have graduated from the Under-18 Test squads who have featured against Scotland over the past two years, while the others impressed at inter-association level. Stephen Kirkwood missed out last season as he was competing in the Commonwealth Youth Games.

“They all have gained invaluable competitive experience through the junior inter-association series. Many also figured prominently this season in the association and national championship finals."

Expectation levels have soared in recent years and Nutt reckons his boys can again raise the bar, adding: “We have proved in recent years that we can be very competitive in one-off games at this level.

“The challenge to the players is to produce their best form consistently over three games in quick succession and to play with the same level of confidence and self-belief which they have when playing at club or association level.

“We have prepared well, We were invited to Dunbarton BC last month for a practice match on the occasion of the opening of the magnificent new floodlights. A competitive game against a top team provided us with a very meaningful workout in advance of the series.”

Ireland Under-25 team: Rink one: S Barkley (Old Bleach), R Cavan (Belmont), R Bell (Mossley), R Kirkwood (Old Bleach).

Rink two: A Johnston (Lisnagarvey), J Moffett (Banbrige), T McClean (Bangor), M Crawford (Bangor).

Rink three: JP Fahy (Portrush), M Jones (Portglenone), J Byrne (Crumlin), D O’Kane (Letterkenny),

Rink four: M Hastings (Bangor), M Albert (Balmoral), C Dorman (Donaghadee), W Boyd (Donaghadee).

Rink five: S Shields (Ballymena), J McBride (Comber), J Moffett (Dunbarton), S Kirkwood (Old Bleach).

Rink six: D Mills (Pickie), J Watson (Pickie), A O’Keeffe (St James’s Gate), D Atkinson (Belmont).

Reserves: A Clyde (Dunluce), A McKeown (Mossley), C Gaw (Donaghadee).

Programme: Ireland v Wales (R Kirkwood v R Owen, M Crawford v D Salmon, W Boyd v L Bouse, S Kirkwood v R Thomas, D Atkinson v L Stone).

Scotland v England (C Milne v M Heitzman, J Mower v N Kitchen, A Barrie v M Coombes, J Fleming v J Walker, P Kane jnr v R Atkins, R O’Malley v R Whitlock).

England v Wales (R Atkins v R Thomas, R Whitlock v L Stone; M Heitzman v R Owen, N Kitchen v D Salmon, M Coombes v J Breen, J Walker v L Bouse).

Scotland v Ireland (P Kane jnr v S Kirkwood, R O’Malley v D Atkinson, C Milne v R Kirkwood, J Mower v M Crawford, A Barrie v D O’Kane, J Fleming v W Boyd).

Scotland v Wales (A Barrie v J Breen, J Fleming v L Bouse, P Kane jnr v R Thomas, R O’Malley v L Stone, C Milne v R Owen, J Mower v D Salmon).

Ireland v England (D O’Kane v M Coombes, W Boyd v J Walker, S Kirkwood v R Atkins, D Atkinson v R Whitlock, R Kirkwood v M Heitzman, M Crawford v N Kitchen).