Title holders to begin defence at Whitehead
The Northern Ireland Bowling Association put their IBA Inter-association title on the line, starting tonight at Whitehead.
Having been handed the trophy by default in Dublin 12 months ago, the NIBA boys will be out to prove they are worthy champions as they host the annual two-day bowls festival.
Poor weather conditions last season saw the final two games of the series called off. With such a packed schedule, the IBA were unable to rearrange the fixtures, so the NIBA, who topped the leaderboard, were handed the title.
It's hardly surprising NIBA selectors have backed the side that performed so admirably in Dublin as the same team go into action against the Bowling League of Ireland at Whitehead tonight.
NIBA official Stephen Moran said: "There are only two additions to the squad with Bangor's Lee Gamble and Banbridge player Jack Moffett added to the reserve panel.
"It's vital we get off to a good start. We are the title holders, so we are the team that everyone wants to beat. It's a challenge we have to meet head on."
Most eyes will be on tonight's other game down the road at Carrickfergus where the Provincials go head-to-head with the Private Greens League at Shaftesbury Park.
Ballymena's Adam McKeown, Sean Trainor (Dunbarton) and Pickie player Dean Mills have been handed their PGL senior debuts, while Chris Trainor (Dunbarton), Terry Crawford (Salisbury) and Robert Kirkwood (Old Bleach) are recalled to the squad.
PGL's Robin Horner said: "It's five years since we've had our hands on the trophy, so it would be a good time to alter that stat."
The Provincials have a great record in the tournament recently, twice winners in the last three years. The elements in Dublin last season deprived them of becoming the first team to rack up a hat-trick since the PGL's impressive run back in 2000-2003.
The Provincials will have three new faces - Leigh Harrison (Limavady), David Walker (Ballymoney) and Johnny Shepherd (Cookstown).
The PBA's Jackie Smyth said: "We've got a nice blend of youth and experience. The boys go into the opener with confidence."
IBA Match schedule,Tonight, 5.30pm: NIBA v BLI (at Whitehead); NIPBA v NIPGL (at Carrickfergus).
Tomorrow, 9.30am: NIBA v NIPBA (at Whitehead); BLI v NIPGL (at Whitehead).
2.30pm: NIBA v NIPGL (at Whitehead); NIPBA v BLI (at Carrickfergus).