Ireland’s Alistair Kennedy and Barry Kane on Friday night go into the unknown in the World Indoor Pairs Championship at Potters Leisure Resort.
The Ballybrakes Community boys booked their place on the sport’s top stage by winning the Professional Bowlers’ Association’s qualifier at the Baker Stadium back in October.
But before they dare dream of walking out on to the famous blue portable rink, they must negotiate a three-way play-off involving Hong Kong and Israel.
“We are due to face the Hong Kong pair on Thursday and then Israel the following day,” said Kane.
“We face prospect of a lot of bowling, just to get into the first round proper.
“We obviously don’t know very much about our opponents in either game. It’s a big challenge, but we are looking forward to it.”
Should Kennedy and Kane manage to negotiate their way into the main tournament, they will come up against their former international team mate Johnny Ross and Wayne Hogg.
Mark McPeak will also be making the journey to Norfolk for the World singles, but his challenge doesn’t get under way until next week.
The Ireland international will line out against England’s Mark Royal.
McPeak has graced the famous venue on previous occasions, both in singles and pairs and, even though his opponent is ranked 14 in the WBT seedings, he’ll view it as an opportunity to progress.
“It’s a challenge,” said McPeak.
“You are coming up against some of the best players in the world, so it gives me the opportunity to test myself. Regardless of who you play, it’s always going to be a massive ask in this class of company. But I will go there to enjoy it.”
Should McPeak negotiate his opener, he would it would give him an opportunity to face either England team mates, Robert Paxton or Craig Newton in the second round.
McPeak will be joined by his former Ireland colleague Ross in the singles discipline.
Ross, who has resided in Paisley for the past five years and now wears the blue of Scotland faces a difficult opener in the form of England’s Billy Jackson.
The former Belfast man has managed to remain in the WBT top 16, but requires a couple of decent results in the ranking events this season to improve his status as he is now seeded 13
p Armagh and Foyle go head to head in the IIBA Men’s Inter-zone Championship quarter final on Saturday, but both will be under-strength.
The tournament collides with the Short Mat Players’ Tour’s Swedish Masters, where a posse of Irish representatives will compete for the top prize in Stromstad.
Armagh, the 2013 Boomer Cup winners, will be without Jal Richardson and Joe Beattie, while their opponents are missing Mark Beattie and Gary Moore.
“It’s an unfortunate clash of dates,” said Richardson. “There are quite a few travelling to Sweden for the Masters . . . I think there are around 20 players making the journey.
“But we have adequate cover. Hopefully, the boys can make it through to the semi finals.”
Armagh will also be missing Terry Mulholland, but the experienced Lawrence McCartan, Raymond Hunter and Paul Whittle have been drafted in as cover.
“The three boys have bags of experience,” added Richardson. They have all played for the zone for close on 20 years, but have opted out this season. Thankfully, they agreed to fill in due to the fact that Joe and I will be missing.”
“It will be something of a new experience for both zones because they haven’t met in the tournament in recent years.”
IIBA Men’s Inter-zone quarter finals
Armagh v Foyle; Northern v Oriel; South & East Belfast v Western; North Eastern v South Tyrone.