Ireland have a big reputation to live up to when they host the 2013 British Isles Indoor Short Mat team Championship at Coleraine Leisure Centre this weekend.
The Irish have a proud record in this tournament, having failed to land the trophy on only five occasions since the inaugural year back in 1986.
Under the leadership of Artie Rice for the second season, Ireland will be hoping enhance their reputation in front of home supporters at the North West venue.
“We had a blip in 2011 when England won the title at Dumfries,” said IIBA PRO Harold Massey. “But it would be fair to say we have been the dominant force in this event.
“Without question, the other nations have improved enormously over recent years. They now have short mat tournaments held up and the country down in England and Wales which they are benefitting from.
“We last hosted the Series at Coleraine back in 2008 which proved to be very successful as we won the team title along with the singles and pairs in the individual disciplines. A repeat performance would certainly be nice, especially on home mats.”
Irish selectors failed to stick with tradition and named only two new faces in the side that recaptured the championship 12 months ago, both in the rink skipped by Kevin Conroy.
Foyle’s Lynn Hamilton is drafted in for her debut at lead, while Eddie Curran has earned a deserved recall – he will play third.
“The selectors decided to stick with the side that performed so well last year and not make a series of alterations, which has been the norm,” added Massey. “Ryan O’Neill has been handed the honour of captaining the team for the first time.
“Even taking into account the improvement of the other teams, it is difficult to visualise anything other than an Ireland success. In saying that, there will be no room for any complaceny, bearing in mind that Wales came within one shot of causing a major upset at Coleraine in 2008. We begin the defence of the title against England, so that will be an early test and a possibly yardstick of how the championship will pan out.”
Meanwhile, Raymond Stubbs carries the responsibility of representing Ireland in the British Isles singles championships – staged in tandem with the team event – hoping to recapture the crown last won by Alan Paul back in 2010. It was the Mid Ulster man’s second success in that discipline, having won the title two years earlier. Sandwiched in between was a victory by Oriel’s Gerry McCabe.
Stephen McKinley and Davy Coulter will go into action the pairs, hoping to make a successful defence after North West’s Ryan O’Neill and Leigh Harrison picked up the trophy last time out.
In an ironic twist, O’Neill and Harrison were the last Irish players to glean success in the triples, back in 2010.
Now David Crawford, Eddie Curran and John Quinn go into action, hoping to become the first Donegal combination to pick up a British award.
In contrast, the Irish will be going for a hat-trick in the fours championship following successes in 2011 and 2012.
The onus will be on Uel McKeeman and his club mates, Sammy McMath, Tommy Mullan, and Barry Kane to repeat the feat of the last two years.
Team Ireland: Rink one: P Beattie (Armagh), M Wilson (Mid Ulster), J Wilson (West Down), C McHugh (Mid Ulster).
Rink two: G Stubbs (Lisburn), D Morrison (Mid Antrim), R O’Neill (North West), R Stubbs (Lisburn).
Rink three: l Hamilton (Foyle), PJ McCrossan (Mid Tyrone), E Curran (Donegal), K Conroy (Oriel).
Rink four: M Beattie (Foyle), L Harrison (North West), A Paul (Mid Ulster), J Quinn (Donegal).
British Isles representatives: Singles: R Stubbs (Lisburn).
Pairs: D Coulter, S McKinley (East Antrim).
Triples: D Crawford, E Curran, J Quinn (Donegal).
Fours: S McMath, T Mullan, B Kane, U McKeeman (North Eastern).