Simon Martin expecting fight for bowls title
Belfast's Simon Martin admits retaining the AIIB National singles title will be a 'massive challenge'.
The Irish international got his hands on the trophy for the first time 12 months ago following a six shots win over his Watson Stadium team-mate Stephen Gibson.
Martin will now attempt to book a spot in next month's semi finals when the 16 qualifiers go head-to-head at the Ballybrakes Community Club, Ballymoney, tomorrow (10am).
"If winning the title was a difficult job, it will be even more daunting trying to retain it," claimed Martin, who went on to lift the British crown, beating England's Perry Martin in the 21-16 in the final.
Incredibly, 10 players who made it through to last season's qualifier are back in the mix. Martin faces a difficult opening game against County Antrim's Trevor Robinson.
"You have to work for anything you get when you reach this stage. Every game is a massive test," he said.
"It's good to be back in the last 16 play-off. It's a quality field. I'll just concentrate on taking one game at a time and hope for a little bit of luck," added Martin, who will bid to become the first player to win back-to-back Irish singles titles since Johnny Ross (2002-2003).
Should Martin negotiate that opening tie, there is a fair chance he will come up against 2011 winner Mark McPeak, who faces his Shaws Bridge colleague Chris Eadie the opening exchanges.
His reign ended last season when beaten at the semi-final stage by Stephen Gibson.
"It's the title that everyone wants," said McPeak.
"It was a great honour winning it for the first time and, it was made that extra bit special as I also lifted the British championship."
There will also be a little bit of family rivalry stoked up when Rod Coleman opposes his young nephew Alistair – he was beaten in the semi final of the WIBC Under-25 singles in Glasgow last week – while Gary Kelly, the 2008 Irish champion, will go up against Clifford Craig, who recently celebrated his 50th birthday.
Fixtures AIIB National singles qualifier: S Martin (BIBC) v T Robinson (CAIBC), M McPeak (BIBC) v C Eadie (BIBC), A Kennedy (BCIBC) v S Bennett (BIBC), S Gibson (BIBC) v P Prunty (BIBC), B Kane (BCIBC) v I McClure (BCIBC), A Coleman (CAIBC) v R Coleman (CAIBC), G Kelly (BCIBC) v C Craig (BIBC), S Coleman sen (CAIBC) v J McCullough (BIBC).