The semi-finals of the Cities & Counties Championship for the coveted Andrew Hamilton Trophy take place tomorrow, with two cracking head-to-heads when East Lothian tackle Lanarkshire South at Blackford BC and West Lothian face Lanarkshire West at Blantyre.
East Lothian have a strong recent record in the event, having reigned as champions in 2003, 2005 and 2011, and also contested the finals of 2007 and 2009, but face a team that over the same period has captured the title on four occasions.
But it is cause for concern that the Garden County elite go into such an important and challenging battle with influential figures Scott Kennedy, Alister Kennedy and Steven Morgan (all skips) enforced absentees.
“A big task has just got bigger,” said a spokesman from the East Lothian camp. However team captain Craig Valentine makes a return, and is joined by Craig McLeod of Winton and Billy Cormack of Macmerry.
Valentine takes on the responsibility of skipping a rink and the EL selectors have also opted to invest their faith in the skills and competitive spirit of two old faithfuls in Willie Wood MBE and Angus Blair.
EL line up as follows:
Rink 1: Chris Johnston, Gordon Baillie, John White, Derek Oliver.
Rink 2: Gordon White, Billy Dunleavey, Jamie Higgins, Craig Valentine.
Rink 3: Ronald Branley, Billy Cormack, John McCrorie, Billy Mellors.
Rink 4: Michael Greenan, Jamie Gordon, Stewart Johnston, Willie Wood MBE.
Rink 5: Matt Osborne Stephen Cochrane, Richard Black, Brian Young.
Rink 6: Stevie Greenan, Craig McLeod, Glen Blair, Angus Blair.
West Lothian were recent champions, in 2009, and go into their semi-final with a settled line-up – Frazer Muirhead returns for John Black – that has performed consistently well this season, but they know that Lanarkshire West represent strong opposition.
“Both Lanarkshire teams play with an abundance of spirit that can inspire them to reach great heights and with home green advantage and a traditionally enthusiastic support also in their favour I expect our test to be a severe one,” said WL team captain Grant Logan.
“It will take a big performance from us to go through but we are capable of delivering that,” he added.
The WL line-up reads:
Rink 1: Ewan Shearer, Scott Mushet, Gary Orr, Sandy McDougall.
Rink 2: Paul Lynas, Scott McMaster, James Speirs, Thomas Mann.
Rink 3: Frazer Muirhead, David Lamb, Calum Logan, Grant Logan.
Rink 4: Dizzy Drysdale, Alec Allan, Mark Allison, Steven Fleming.
Rink 5: Steven Forrest, Ian Drysdale, Blair Mackie, Raymond Logan.
Rink 6: Drew Paterson, Andrew Semple, Walter McDougall, Gary Smith.