Belfast Telegraph

Whitehead plan to go one better this time around

By David Mason

Whitehead's Stephen Moran admits his team face a 'most difficult' start in the quest to regain the Northern Ireland Bowling Association Division One championship.

The East Antrim boys are still smarting after being pipped at the post in last season's campaign, when a last bowl winner deprived them of the title at Banbridge.

Seven points would have guaranteed Whitehead the title for the sixth time since 2004. Instead they had to settle for six.

Bangor came with a late surge to whip the championship away from their rivals right at the death.

Whitehead travel to the 2012 champions Balmoral for what will be a testing opener.

"They don't come much tougher," said Moran. "In fact, we also have Bangor coming up in our third game, so it's a difficult opener to the campaign.

"In saying that, we have to meet those teams some time, so let's get it on.

"Last season's title race was probably the most hotly contested for many years . . . or probably the closest ever.

"It literally went down to the last bowl of the campaign and Bangor just shaded it in the end. But the disappointment is now out of our system and we are now raring to go."

Whitehead will have two new boys on show when they line out against Balmoral. Ryan McKeown has been recruited from Mossley and David Torrington brought in from Private Greens League champions Ballymena.

"Unfortunately, James Caldwell will he missing due to a shoulder injury," adds Moran. "He is receiving treatment but we don't know how long he is going to be out. James also played a lot of tennis which added to his injury, but hopefully he will be back sooner than later.

"The two new lads, however, will help boost the squad."

Meanwhile, Provincial Division One title holders Ballymoney will look to bank early points when they play host to Portglenone.

The County Antrim boys lifted the crown last season in the first ever Provincial play-off against Portrush, who finished level on points.

"We are geared for another title push," said Ballymoney's Gary Kelly.

"We've also been beaten in three Irish Cup finals in the last four years, so that's another big monkey we want to get off our backs. It will be a big year for the club."

Fixtures: Northern Ireland Bowling Association Division One: Donaghadee v Dundonald, Divis v Lisnagarvey, Bangor v Castle, Banbridge v Portadown, Balmoral v Whitehead.

Private Greens League Division One: Pickie v Ulster Transport, Ewarts v Forth River, Willowfield v Belmont, Old Bleach v Larne, Dunbarton v Falls.

Provincial Bowling Association Senior League: City of Derry v Portrush, Ballymoney v Portglenone, Cookstown v Dunluce, Letterkenny v Ballycastle, Coleraine v Kilrea.

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