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Belmont have their sights set on Division One title: Hamilton

 

Title tilt: David Hamilton has high hopes for Belmont
Title tilt: David Hamilton has high hopes for Belmont

By Alex Mills

David Hamilton admits it's time Belmont emerged from the shadows of high-flying Dunbarton to bring the Northern Ireland Private Greens League Division One title back to East Belfast.

The dominant Gilford side have paraded the trophy for the past two years and again will be the team to beat when the new outdoor bowls season gets under way today.

They were pushed to the wire by battling Ballymena last season - four points separated the teams at the campaign's end.

Belmont finished in third place, three points adrift of the Sky Blues. Hamilton insists it could again be another three-way battle to the finish.

"There is very little between the teams," he said. "Dunbarton certainly have been the more consistent, but it's basically down to results in the head-to-heads.

Belmont will be favourites to get their season off to the best possible start when they welcome Ewarts, while Dunbarton will be looking for something similar when they host newly promoted Salisbury.

But Ballymena face a tricky opening test against Larne at Old Glenarm Road.

In a ground-breaking move by three of the four associations that come under the banner of the Irish Bowling Association, ladies will be permitted to participate in what was formerly a male dominated Saturday afternoon sport for the first time.

Clubs in NIBA, the NI Private Greens League and the Bowling League of Ireland have backed the introduction of women.

Bangor is one team that could benefit as they have registered Ireland international Elaine Hastings in their squad. The Seasiders begin their campaign against Dundonald at Ward Park today.

"I think it's a move that will benefit clubs," said Robert Hastings. "My wife (Elaine) is a member of Ballywalter, which is a Private Greens League club and plays in midweek. But she is a regular at Ward Park every Saturday, so potentially this decision means she can now participate as a registered player with us."

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