Bowls: Kevin Conroy eyes third Champion of Champions singles title

Kevin Conroy pictured with his sons  and mascots  Wyatt and Oscar
Kevin Conroy pictured with his sons and mascots Wyatt and Oscar

Kevin Conroy goes in search of his third IIBA Champion of Champions singles crown at the Watson Stadium on Saturday.

The Redeemer man is among the 34 title pretenders - and one of our four previous winners on the starting grid.

Conroy last had his hands on the trophy two years, but it was back in 2002 when he made his breakthrough in a tournament that gives the winners of any IIBA licensed competition the opportunity of taking the big prize.

And, for the first time, the four disciplines - singles, pairs, triples and fours - have been split over two weeks, giving players an option competing in two events.

“It’s one of the most difficult competitions to win,” said Conroy. “I’ve already managed to do it twice, so it would be a dream to achieve it again.

“But you can take nothing for granted, especially in this tournament. Everyone is there on merit having won an licensed tournament, so you can get any tougher opponents than that.”

Conroy has been drawn against Seamus Winters, from Latton, in his opening match.

Victory were earn him a meeting with either Derek McClintock (St Johnston) or PJ McCrossan (St Patrick’s, Drumquin).

There are some cracking ties on offer with Ballinderry’s Ronald Stubbs, the 1988 winner, coming up against Louth’s Paul Duff in one of only two first round matches.

The other is also a tasty affair with Leigh Harrison, from the United Services, facing Andrew Steele, from Greenbank.

And, when the second round gets under way, Pauline Beattie, who recently picked up a bronze medal in the Ramada Plaza Irish Open at the Watson Stadium -- one of six world ranking tournaments on the Short Mat Player’s Tour -- goes head to head with young Michael Hand, from Corrduff.

But possibly the biggest clash of that particular phase is Mark Beattie’s clash with Marty Trainor.

Strabane’s Beattie currently tops the SMPT rankings following his World Masters win in Belfast last April.

The Champion of Champions Fours will be run in tandem with the singles. The Pairs and Triples are down for decision at the same venue next weekend.

John Quinn, the reigning singles title holder will not be involved in the discipline this time. His victory secured his passage to Wold Bowls later this season, so it gives him the chance to compete in the fours.

The Ballylennon man will skip his rink of Clark Hill, Alan Loughan and Alan Paul in an opening game against the combination skipped by John McMahon from Carrickmacross.

However, the reigning champions are back to defend their crown. Cooley’s Brendan McCabe, Stephen McMahon, Paddy Hanlon and Gerry McCabe face a titanic opening clash against the Armagh side skipped by Jal Richard son.

And, another stand out tie brings together Gary McNabb, who won last month’s UK Open in England -- another SMPT ranking event -- against Andrew Leckey, from Armagh.

Fixures

Champion of Champions singles

First round: Ron Stubbs (Balliindery) v P Duff (Louth); L Harrison (United Services) v A Steele (Greenbank).

Second round: J Glackin (Maghery) v R Stubbs or P Duff; P Beattie (St Mark’s, Portadown) v M Hand (Corduff); B Rankin (Derramore) v S McCartney (Holm Park), S McMath (Michelin) v A Tanner (Conna); J Adair (Clare Presbyterian)v G Maybin (1st Ahoghill); S Quinn (Cookstown Parochial) v M White Conwell); K Conroy (Redeemer) v S Winters (Latton); D McClintock (St Johnston) v PJ McCrossan (St Patrick’s, Drumquin); Nathan Haire (Hillsborough Social) v J Murnaghan (Dooley); J Beattie (St Mark’s, Portadown) v A Morrison (1st Ahoghill);Ray Stubbs (Ballinderry) v I Hobson (Dungannon).

M Triggs (Midleton) v T Turkington (Kildress) ; M Beattie (Strabane CC) v M Trainor (St Anthony’s, Craigavon); S Hand (Corduff) v K Blakley (Rathfiland), S McSorley (Holm Park) v A Ward (Cookstown Parochial); L Harrison or A Steele v T Gartland (Killaney).

Champion of Champions Fours

First round: B McCabe, S McMahon, P Hanlon, G McCabe (Cooley) v M Bell, L Douglas, G Culbert, J Richardson (St Mark’s, Portadown); S Kyne, G Merrin, J Martin, B McAlary (Lafarge) v W Armstrong, R Nixon, J Breadon, I Armstrong (Wellington); I Craig, M Petticrew, M Beattie, Nick Haire (Hillsborough Social) v M Conlon, J O’Riordan, S O’Riordan, L Conlon (Watergrasshill); C Hill, A Loughlin, A Paul, J Quinn (Ballylennon) v J McMahon, I Hanratty, B McMahon, J McMahon (Carrickmacross); S Brown, J Teague, W Boggs, G McNabb (St Michael’s, Enniskillen) v DJ Wilson, E Campbell, J Wilson, A Leckey (St Mark’s, Portadown); L Magennis, S Murphy, B Murphy, C Dillon (St Joseph’s, Ponyntzpass) v T McGirk, E McSkeane, F Rooney, F McGuirk (Ardaghey); S Skelton, D McMahon, M Sproule, A Corrigan (Redeemer) v K Lynch, S donaghy, D McElroy, J Donnell (Cookstown Parochial); R McDonnell, R Crawford, A Gilfillain, V McHugh (Ballylennon) v G Litttle, M McCandless, C Connolly, J Mackey (Soldierstown).