Belfast Telegraph

Gary Kelly has eye on another IBA Inter-Association Championship title

By David Mason

Gary Kelly admits Provincial Towns are 'in the mood' to retain the IBA Inter-Association Championship at the City of Derry club over the weekend.

The Provincials have defied the odds to dominate the two-day event in recent years, having paraded the trophy on three occasions.

"We have no intentions of relinquishing the title," warns the Ireland international. "We are one of the smaller associations, but have worked hard to overshadow our rivals.

"However, we don't intend to rest on our laurels. We are the current champions, playing on home soil, so we're determined to make a successful defence."

The Provincials face a daunting opener tonight against the NIBA.

"It's a tough start, they are all difficult," added Kelly. "It's essential we achieve a positive result to set us up for the two Saturday fixtures."

Victor Dallas returns to the team, having missed last season's title-winning celebration, and is a straight replacement for Ballymoney's Willie McCaw, who is unavailable.

Aaron Tennant, reserve last time out, is handed a starting slot, playing lead in the rink skipped by Gary McCloy, who has Dallas at third.

Whitehead's Nigel Beggs and Aaron Patterson (Bangor) will make their NIBA debuts.

Beggs is drafted in at lead in the rink skipped by his club colleague Barry Browne, while Patterson links up with his Bangor team-mates Mark Shannon and skip Robert Hastings.

The NIBA haven't had their hands on the trophy since 2006 and it's perhaps surprising the selectors have given a vote of confidence to practically the same squad that managed to finish only third 12 months ago.

Meanwhile, Ballymena teenager Stephen Shields will tonight make his Private Greens League debut against the Bowling League of Ireland at the same venue.

Shields is the only new face in the side that finished runners-up last season. Dunbarton's Myles Greenfield returns to the action after surprisingly being axed last time out. Shields is named at lead in Alan Montgomery's rink - Greenfield resumes his skipping duties.

The BLI are without two of their most influential players, Ian Gillen (Blackrock) and Stephen Millane (St James's Gate), who are both unavailable.

However, CYM's Richard Darcy, who missed last season's campaign after undergoing knee surgery, is back along with Nicky Smyth (Leinster) and Noel Maher from Crumlin.

IBA Inter-Association programme:

Tonight (5.30pm): NIBA v NIPBA; NIPGL v BLI. Tomorrow morning (9.30am): NIBA v NIPGL; NIPBA v BLI. Tomorrow afternoon (2.20pm): NIBA v BLI; NIPGL v NIPBA.

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