Cecil Dillon may still be looking for his first Irish national title, but it’s a different scenario on the Short Mat Players Tour!
The agony continued for the West Down farmer in the IIBA National play-offs over the past fortnight when he was dumped out of both the triples and fours disciplines.
But he will be one of the favourites for the World Masters when the SMPT swings into town next month.
Dillon will not only be going for his third major title at the Watson Stadium, but there is a World Cup place also up for grabs.
There are almost 200 entries already signed up for the World Masters, which carries a whopping £2,000 prize fund. SMPT director Phil Mills reckons they are on course to beat last year’s starting field of 252.
“Our capacity is 270,” he said.
“There is still almost a month to go before the tournament takes place, so hopefully we can reach our target.”
Dillon, who has previously won the Swedish and English Masters on the SMPT, is one of a posse of local bowlers that has committed to what should be a fantastic event that will attract players from all over Europe.
“I was disappointed over the last fortnight in the national qualifiers,” said Dillon.
“I’ve never won a national title. In fact, I managed to reach the quarter final of the fours and that’s the best I’ve done so far.
“It’s something I’ll continue to work at. I certainly fare better when it comes to the Short Mat Tour, having won in Sweden and England. I also topped the player ratings last season, which was a good achievement.
“There is another fantastic entry for the World Masters, and it’s going to be a big challenge. These tournaments are getting more difficult to win, there is no doubt about that.”
Current title holder Gerry McCabe will be back to defend his crown, while other big guns form Northern Ireland, including Mark Beattie, Jal Richardson, Andrew Morrison and Joe Beattie will all be in action.
“Players will be competing for one of the most coveted titles in short mat bowls and a prize pool worth over £2000,” boasted Mills.
“With everyone guaranteed a minimum of six games over the weekend, through a tournament model that we devised and brought to Northern Ireland, there is something for everyone.
“It’s the final world ranking event of the season. Not surprisingly Irish players dominate the top of the ‘Order of Merit’ table with six occupying the top 10 places.
“With a maximum of 165 points on offer for the winner (of the World Masters), the Order of Merit title will either go to current number one Mark Beattie, or to his fellow country men Jal Richardson or Andrew Morrison.”
But there is also a massive carrot dangling as the top four ranked players in each country will automatically gain entry to the World Cup, staged at Bromsgrove Indoor Bowls Club in August.
As it currently stands, Mark Beattie, Jal Richardson, Andrew Morrison and Cecil Dillon are in pole position to claim their place in the tournament, but that could all change next month.
Breathing down their necks are Pauline Beattie and her husband Joe, Ivan Craig and William Morrison.
“It’s going to be a tense final tournament,” added Mills. “There is a lot to play for.
“We will also be hosting our World Two-Bowls Masters on the Friday before the World Masters.
“This event provides a unique challenge to the players ahead of the main event. We at still taking entries for that.
“And, we will be running a promotion to attract new bowlers to our events.
“First time entrants into one of our world ranking events will be entered into a draw for a brand new set of free Henselite bowls.”