Gary Kelly admitted he was “honoured” to be handed the Ireland captaincy for the BIBC Home Internationals at Llandrindrod Wells, Wales, on Saturday and Sunday, July 2-3.
The Ballymoney man, who made his Ireland debut in 2008, is relishing the prospect of leading out the side for the first time.
Robbie Maher, form the St James’s Gate club in Dublin, will be the only new face involved. But the Irish selectors have brought back a posse of experienced players that will certainly beef up their chances of getting their hands on the trophy for the first time since 2009 when they triumphed on home soil at Belmont.
Marty McHugh, Graham McKee, Stephen Coleman and Andy Hughes are all back on board, helping to offset the disappointment of losing former skipper Clifford Craig, who stepped away from representative bowls last season.
“I’m thrilled to be handed the responsibility of captain,” said Kelly.
“I’ve taken on that role in the Under-25 team – and it’s an honour to now be skipper of the senior side.
“It’s a challenge I’m already relishing and can’t wait to get to Wales.”
The Irish finished third in the Series at Eddlewood in England last year, but after beating the Welsh, they suffered two narrow defeats to the hosts and Scotland.
“We are fortunate to be able to bring back players of with vast amount of experience,” said Irish selector Stephen Moran.
“We went close last season in terms of a title challenge, so the inclusion of these boys will certainly beef up the team."
Meanwhile, the Provincials retained the IBA Inter-association Championship at Belmont on Saturday, finishing the two-day campaign with an unbeaten record.
They got off to the best possible start with an impressive win against the Private Greens League before claiming a crucial result against the NIBA in the second session. With the finish line in sight, they didn’t disappoint as the completed the job in style against the Bowling League of Ireland.
Ireland team: S Kirkwood (Old Bleach), N Mulholland (Old Bleach), S Bennett (Belmont), G Kelly (Ballymoney).
S Shields (Ballymena), C McCartan (Dunbarton), A Duncan (Ballymena), A Kyle (Larne).
P Daly (Belmont), S Martin (Belmont), A Hughes (Dunbarton), S Coleman (Ballymena).
S Jess (Lisnagarvey), R Maher (St James’s Gate), R Hastings (Bangor), G McKee (Bangor).
A Tennant (Ballymoney), G McCloy (Portrush), M Wilson (Cookstown), B McAlary (Ballymoney).
G Pierpoint (St James’s Gate), B Kane (Dunluce), B Browne (Whitehead), M McHugh (Whitehead).
Reserves: D Atkinsokn (Belmont), DJ Wilson (Dunbarton).