Ireland boss Neil Booth may not have the Home International Championships, or World Bowls to prepare for this summer, but he is certainly not letting the grass grow under the feet!
The sport at the top level is still under the strict guidance of the Covid-19 restrictions, which means travel protocols are still in place.
For the second year in a row, there was no action at international level. And, with this season’s World Bowls scheduled for Australia’s Gold Coast now put back until 2023, Booth could be forgiven for putting his feet up.
But that’s not in his DNA. Instead, he has been kept busy, working with the Ireland Elite and Development squads.
In fact, he was due to head a five-man squad in a test match in Jersey this weekend, only for the plug to be pulled at the last minute because the Channel Islands listed the United Kingdom in the ‘red’ category in terms of travel.
But a 12-player squad will head off to Scotland next week for a test series.
Booth is delighted with the response of the players, who have been working locally in competitive games against the three local IBA associations.
“We’ve a number of things in the pipeline,” said Booth. “Yes, everyone is disappointed at missing out in terms of international games for the past couple of years, but there are some exiting things up ahead.
“We go to Scotland next week and then later in the month, we’ll take part of a four nations tournament at Leamington Spa. Then, in August a group will be heading to Wales for another test Series.
“After that, we have another test series in Scotland in September, so the players have been ticking over. We’ve also been working with video analysis equipment and a high-performance system, which is a different dynamic.”
If everything clicks back in to gear next season, Booth will then focus on the Commonwealth Games, staged in July/August, 2022.
“That’s the aim with the team for Birmingham due to be announced at the end of this year,” he added. “We may have lacked top level action, but there is still a lot for the players to aim for.”
The team that will head off to Scotland next week is: Men: Ian McClure, Martin McHugh, Aaron Tennant, Stephen Kirkwood, Mark Wilson and Jack Moffatt.
Women: Courthey Wright, Lara Reaney, Catherine Beattie, Shauna O’Neill, Ashleigh Rainey and Chloe Wilson.