T The Private Greens League have a tough act to follow in the 2015 Under-25 IBA Inter-Association Championships, hosted at Belmont, over the weekend.
They not only regained the title last year, but they achieved it with a swagger, having completed the two day event with an unblemished record.
And, the PGL boys have great opportunity of putting early points on the board as they face perennial whipping boys, the Bowling League of Ireland, in their opening game tomorrow night.
Even though there are six new faces included in the squad -- three of them named as reserves -- the PGL approach the tournament brimming with confidence.
“It’s a good group of players, one we feel that can give a good account of itself in terms of making a successful defence of the title,” said PGL selector Chris Mulholland.
“We lost two skips from last season’s team. Alistair Coleman and Chris Mullen both reached the age limit. However, on the plus side we have Darren Atkinson and David Cunningham, both coming back into the team. They were unavailable last year.”
Ryan McElroy has been handed his debut along with Sam Barkley and Jordan McBride.
The three players listed as reserves will also be involved for the first time -- Conor Burns, Adam McKeown and Jamie Watson.
“I suppose the pressure will be on to a certain degree due to the fact that we won all three games last year,” adds Mulholland. “When you are title holders, every other team wants to beat you . . . they all raise their game.
“But we have a good solid squad and they are all looking forward to the challenge. It’s always important to get off to a good start. We’ll certainly be taking nothing for granted against the BLI before two difficult games on Saturday against the NIBA and Provincials.”
McElroy, son of Dunbarton regular Gary, is drafted in at lead in the rink skipped by Terry Crawford, who will also have Cunningham at second.
Barkley is also handed the roll of lead. He’ll have his Old Bleach team mate Robert Kirkwood skipping.
McBride comes in at second in a strong rink that also includes Stephen Shields, Jack Moffett and Stephen Kirkwood.
On the other green at Belmont tomorrow night, the NIBA and Provincials go head to head.
The NIBA will have five debutants in the form of Whitehead’s Ryan McKeown, Deriece Anderson, William Sweetlove, Jack Moffett and Nathan Haire.
Surprisingly, the NIBA haven’t had the named scribbled on the trophy since 2010, whereas their opponents have been on the winners’ rostrum on three occasions since 2009.
“We are overdue a title win, let’s hope this will be our year,” said NIBA selection convener Stephen Moran.
The Provincials have lost a number of experience heads and will have the youngest side of the four associations on show, which includes three 15 year olds.
In for their debut come Ciaran O’Kane, Adam Stratten, Mark McKeown and David McConnell.
IBA Inter-Association Programme
Tomorrow night: (games all at Belmont): 5.30: NIBA v NIPBA; NIPGL v BLI.
Saturday: 9.30am: NIBA v NIPGL; NIPBA v BLI.
2.30pm: BLI v NIBA; NIPBA v NIPGL.
Private Greens League
Rink one: S Shields (Ballymena), J McBride (Comber), J Moffett (Dunbarton), S Kirkwood (Old Bleach).
Rink two: D Mills (Pickie), G Caughey (Pickie), C Snoddy (Larne), D Atkinson (Belmont),
Rink three: R McElroy (Dunbarton), D Cunningham (Ewarts), R Cavan (Pickie), T Crawford (Belmont).
Rink four: S Barkley (Old Bleach), M Wilson (Ballymena), R Bell (Mossley), R Kirkwood (Old Bleach),
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Reserves: C Burns (Salisbury), A McKeown (Mossley), J Watson (Pickie).
Rink one: R McKeown (Whitehead), D Anderson (Carrick), J Montgomery (Whitehead), M Crawford (Bangor).
Rink two: A Johnston (Dromore), W Sweetlove (Londonderry Park, S Beggs (Whitehead), C Dorman (Donaghadee).
Rink three: M Hastings (Bangor), M Albert (Balmoral), T Carson (Bangor), T McClean (Sydenham).
Rink four: S Jess (Lisnagarvey), J Moffett (Rathfriland), N Haire (Dromore), W Boyd (Donaghadee).
Reserves: D Bodles (Carrick), L Carson (Sydenham), G Dawson (Sydenham), C Mackender (Castle).
Rink one: A Wright (Coleraine), D McConnell (Coleraine), JP Fahy (Portrush), D O’Kane (Letterkenny).
Rink two: C O’Kane (Letterkenny), A Millar (Portglenone), M Mason (Coleraine), J Jacob (Letterneky).
Rink three: A Stratten (Ballymoney), M McKeown (Dunluce), C Brogan (Ballymoney) M Jones (Portglenone).
Rink four: A Jones (Portglenone), A Clyde (Dunluce), A Ward (Cookstown), A Tennant (Ballymoney).
Reserves: J Darragh (Kilrea), M Gallagher (Letterkenny), R Hutchinson (Castlerock), G Kelly (Coleraine).
Bowling League of Ireland
Rink one: J Whitney (St Jame’s Gate), C O’Brien (CYM), A Murphy (CYM), S Loenard (St James’s Gate).
Rink two: B Byrne (St James’s Gate), C Gillen (Blackrock), J Hynes (Rosslare), C Nugent (Blackrock).
Rink three: P Ward (Crumlin), K Carroll (Skerries), C Turner (Crumlin), J Byrne (Crumlin).
Rink four: R Moore (Crumlin), K Daly (Crumlin), J Lyons (Crumlin), A O’Keeffe (St James’s Gate).
Reserves: O Johnston (Skerries), D Woodcock (Skerries).