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Kelly confident his men won't wilt under heat of hat-trick bid

By Alex Mills

Gary Kelly believes his Provincial team can handle the pressure of defending the IBA Senior Inter-Association Championship in Dublin over the weekend.

Having pocketed the coveted trophy for the past two years, the Provincial boys are becoming accustomed to success.

They begin their assault tonight at the Crumlin Club against the Northern Ireland Bowling Association - champions in 2014 - but Kelly insists his boys will be up to the task.

"It's a difficult start, but we can take confidence from our performances over the past two years," said the Ballymoney man.

"We are title holders and the scalp that everyone wants, so we have to make sure we are mentally prepared for the challenge."

The Provincial selectors have handed Derek Smyth a debut, while the experienced Colin Hogg has earned a recall.

However, the three players named as reserves will all taste action at this level for the first time - David Walker, Philip Wallace and Chris McKnight.

"The team hasn't altered too much from last year," added Ireland international Kelly. "To win the title three years in a row would be a big achievement.

"But we know there will be a big challenge from the other associations, especially from the Private Greens League, who have strengthened their squad.

"The Bowling League of Ireland will be playing on their home greens, so nothing can be taken for granted against them. Our focus will be on our opening match against the NIBA."

Also tonight, the Northern Ireland Private Greens League go into action against the hosts, the Bowling League of Ireland, at CYM.

Fixtures, Tonight (5.30pm): Northern Ireland Provincial Bowling Association v Northern Ireland Bowling Association (at Crumlin); Northern Ireland Private Greens League v Bowling League of Ireland (at CYM). Tomorrow (9.30am): NIPBA v BLI (at CYM); NIBA v NIPGL (at Crumlin). (2.30pm) NIPBA v NIPGL (at Crumlin); NIBA v BLI (at CYM).

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