Young Shane Hand is one of four debutantes in the Ireland team that will defend the 2015 Short Mat International Championship at Aberdeen over the weekend.
The 17 year old Corduff player is joined by new boys Stuart McSorley, William Morrison and Gary McNabb in a side that is looking for a 24th title success since the tournament’s inaugural back in 1986. Paddy Hanlon makes a return after a two year absence.
Hand, a student of St Patrick’s High School in Carrickmacross, makes the step from from the ‘A’ team that will also be on duty at the ‘granite city’. He is drafted into a rink laced with experience, in the form of Andrew Leckey, Ryan O’Neill and Kevin Conroy.
McNabb and Morrison will form a new front end for Colm McHugh, while McSorley comes in at third in a strong combination that consists of Joe Beattie, Paddy Hanlon and Alan Paul.
“It’s a team laced with youth and experience,” said manager Tom Haire. “I suppose we in a healthy position of being able to select two three teams that would do justice in the international event.”
Ireland have a great record in this Series and Haire is planning to maintain that impressive run of results.
“I’ve no doubt this team can keep the run going,” he added. “Granted the other teams are strengthening every year, especially England and Wales, who are introducing young players on a regular basis.
“It can be mentally and physically demanding, especially for the players who are doubling up -- also competing in the British Championships. It means they simply go from game to game and are never off the mat.
“But they’ll be up for it, there is no question about that.”
Hand, a four times Irish junior singles champion is relishing the prospect of making the step up from the ‘A’ Series in which he featured last season.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I’m thrilled to be given my debut. I know it could be a daunting experience, but it’s another step up the ladder and I aim to make the most of it.”
The Hand family are steeped in short mat bowls tradition. Shane played with his father Michael in last season’s ‘A’ Series, while his two brothers, Niall and Jason have also been on the IIBA winners’ rostrum in junior singles and pairs. Haire will also be in charge of the Irish side that will feature in the ‘A’ Series, that runs in tandem with the International tournament.
William Boggs, Fiona McDermott and Nathan Haire - the manager’s son - come in for their debut while, Dairmuid McMahon is recalled.
Rink one: S Hand (Corduff), A Leckey (St Mark’s, Portadown), R O’Neill (United Services), K Conroy (Redeemer).
Rink two: G McNabb (St Michael’s, Enniskillen), W Morrison (1st Aghoghill), D McElroy (Cookstown Parochial), C McHugh (Cookstown Parochial).
Rink three: M Beattie (Strabane Cricket Club), P Beattie (St Mark’s, Portadown), J Quinn (Ballylennon), L Harrison (United Services).
Rink four: J Beattie (St Mark’s, Portadown), P Hanlon (Cooley), S McSorley (Ardstraw), A Paul (Cookstown High School).
Captain: Kevin Conroy.
British Isles Championships
Singles: K Conroy (Redeemer).
Pairs: S Conroy, K Conroy (Redeemer).
Triples: D Crawford, N Alexander, E Curran (Ballylennon).
Fours: B McCabe, J Murnaghan, G McCabe, P Hanlon (Cooley).
‘A’ Series team
Rink one: G Smith (Cookstown Parochial), W Boggs (Ardstraw), B McAlary (Lafarge), K Bradshaw (St Joseph’s).
Rink two: A Tanner (Conna), F McDermott (North West), B Rankin (Deramore Presbyterian), L Graham (Du Pont)
Rink three: D McMahon (Carrickmacross), N Haire (Hillsborough Social), S Trainor (Redeemer), A Laughlin (Spa Golf Club).
Rink four: P Christie (Spa Golf Club), M Hand (Corduff), A Irwin (Loughanreagh), J Martin (Lafarge)
Captain: B Rankin (Deramore Presbyterian).
T Crawford (St Anthony’s, Craigavon).
Pairs: M McAleese, D Walker (St Coleman’s).
Triples: S McMahon (Carrickmacross), T Mulholland (Cranagill), A Corrigan (Drumgor).
Fours: M McCullough (Killymurris), M Trainor (Monaghan), J Richardson (St Mark’s), DJ Wilson (All Saints).
* Belfast Indoor Bowls Club begin their challenge in the AIIB Inter-Club Series against County Antrim IBC at the Watson Stadium on Saturday.
Big Clifford Craig will again captain the Belfast side that is oozing with experience.
Their second game in the tournament will be against the Ballybrakes Community Stadium on December 6.
Belfast: Rink one: S Kirkwood, C Mulholland, R Battersby, C Craig.
Rink two: S Jess, R Kirkwood, D Hamilton, S Bennett.
Rink three: P Prunty, S Gibson, P McEwan, M Merritt.
Rink four: C Eadie, D Atkinson, J McCullough, S Martin.
Reserves: A Johnston, D Nixon, J Frazer, R Millar, J Watson.
County Antrim: Rink one: S Barkley, R Curran, S Beggs, A Kyle.
Rink two: JR Nicholl, Stuart Coleman, M Albert, Alistair Coleman.
Rink three: Aaron Coleman, B Trimble, J Caldwell, G McKee.
Rink four: M Tair, J Barkley, J Baker, M Nutt.