| 11°C Dublin

Irish won't bowl over

TEN-PIN BOWLING: More than 150 bowlers from 12 countries arrive in Dublin next week to celebrate the 25th Irish Open Ten-Pin Bowling Championships and 50 years of the sport in Ireland at Leisureplex, Stillorgan.

Thanks to a generous sponsorship deal with Storm Bowling Products, a prize fund of €17,500 is on offer with €4,000 going to the overall winner.

Leading the home challenge are Irish champions Hannah Cullen and Barry Foley.

Both are in good form, with Cullen, runner-up for the past two years, setting an Irish record of 2,072 when she won the Irish title last February.

Kerena Dykes from Tallaght, winner of the women's title in 2007 and 2009, is also entered, as is Paul Stott who, in 2011, became the the only Irish player to win a European Tour title.

Among the international players taking them on is a large group from Norway, including former European champion Tore Torgersen, who won at Stillorgan in 1996. From closer to home, the 2003 Irish Open winner, Paul Evans from England, and the 2006 women's winner, Laura Rhoney from Scotland, have both entered.

With standards improving all the time, last year's Irish Open proved the most memorable yet with a staggering seven perfect games of 300 -- 12 strikes in a row. Play starts next Thursday (2.30pm) and continues with a series of elimination rounds until Sunday's grand finals (2.30pm).

Spectators are welcome.

SWIMMING: Top Irish long distance swimmer Ned Denison has become only the fifth person to swim the shark-infested waters of False Bay in South Africa.

To keep the predators at a safe distance, Denison was escorted by three boats on the 35km crossing. He finished in 11 hours 5 minutes, and although the going got choppy, picked up speed in the final three kilometres.

A few weeks earlier, a group of four Irish swimmers headed for the Russian Winter Swimming Championships in Tyumen, Siberia. Only togs and goggles are allowed in this extreme form of swimming where all competitors undergo an on-the-spot medical check before they plunge into the freezing pool, cut with a chainsaw from the ice. Braving an air temperature of -21 degrees on the opening day of competition, Anne Marie Ward finished fifth and Nuala Moore sixth in the women's 50m. A day later, Moore was third in her age group in the 150m, while Padraig Mallon was third in the men's 300m.

Mallon is aiming to hold an Irish winter swimming festival at Camlough Lake later this year so that everyone can experience the exhilaration of swimming in winter conditions.

BADMINTON: Thanks to a record entry, play in the men's singles for the Leinster Open at Whitehall Road, Dublin next weekend starts next Friday, with a qualifying tournament also taking place. Among the entries are Scott Burnside, beaten in the final by Tony Stephenson last year, and junior international Joshua Magee. Alannah Stephenson, winner of the women's title last year at the age of 15, is back to defend her title.

p At last weekend's Ulster Grade A tournament in Lisburn, Tony Murphy beat Conor Hickland in the men's final, with Murphy and Hickland taking the doubles. Fionnuala McCourt won the women's singles.

HOCKEY: A nine-day training camp in Valencia, Spain will give newly installed Irish women's coach Darren Smith a first chance to see his squad in action before the FIH World League 11, taking place next month at the same venue.

Smith arrives in Ireland on January 25, having picked his squad of 22 while still in his native New Zealand.

Of the 22, 17 play their club hockey in Leinster, with seven coming from UCD alone.

All but one of the squad of 18, who took a bronze medal at the FIH Champion Challenge I in Dublin last September, are recalled, as are Emma Clarke, Nicci Daly, Cliodhna Sargent and Shirley McCay, who were unavailable last September.