County hotshot Connor Cinato has a three-time world champion in his sights as he prepares to make his Just Retirement Professional World Indoor Singles debut at Potters next week.
After coming through a qualifying tournament in Bournemouth a couple of months ago, the confident Kettering man admits he is relishing the opportunity of facing his England Under-25 team manager Andy Thomson MBE on Tuesday and is backing himself to come out on top at the Hopton-on-Sea leisure resort.
“I really can’t wait to play him,” said Cinato. “It all depends on how I get on in practice – if I nail the rink then I should be okay. The crowd and all that won’t bother me.
“If I find the carpet then I fancy my chances against anyone. It is just having that confidence to find the weight, what line to bowl and hopefully I will give Thommo a good game. Playing in front of a large crowd does not faze me, I thrive off pressure.”
Cinato has never experienced the unique portable blue rink before, but he has been given some invaluable tips by those who have.
“I have spoken to Mark Royal and he said the rink can be very different depending on heat, what time you play, etc. And Graeme McDougall told me it bowled completely differently to what he thought it would,” he said.
“I have three practise sessions and hopefully I can get used to it. I’m going on Saturday as it’s the awards evening for which I have been nominated, although I don’t know for what.
“I will practise on Sunday and Monday and then play on the Tuesday.
“My family are coming down to watch and a few of my friends from up north are heading down, so I will have a few supporters.”
Cinato, who is a regular at county and international level, won four matches in one day at Bournemouth to book his place in indoor bowls’ blue riband event on the east Norfolk coast, although he very nearly fell at the first hurdle.
He needed a tie-break to see off Sorrento’s Mick Murray in his opening match, producing a match-winning draw with his final delivery.
Cinato explained: “I would have been out if it wasn’t for my last bowl. I was holding shot within about a couple of inches and the only shot he had was a two-foot trail and he got it perfect. I had to then draw within about two foot, but luckily enough I did.”
He then steamed past Preston’s Peter Morgan, failing to concede a single shot in a two sets to nil victory and then only dropped two shots in crushing Luke Harwood, of Radnorshire.
The final was a different matter, though, with Isle of Man’s Travis Meller putting up some stern resistance, with Cinato eventually going through on a nail-biting final end of a thrilling tie-break.
“The final was the best game of bowls I have ever played in,” said Cinato.
“Travis is one of my best mates. It was the sort of game where you want to win, but he’s your mate. Anyone could have won that one.”
It has been an excellent few weeks for the Northamptonshire youngster, as he then went on to land a European Masters event in York last month, which puts him in the frame to compete in the three World Bowls Tour events next season.
“I had to play five or six games in a day there and that was hard – I had to leave at 4am in the morning to get up there for an 8am start,” he said. “I won that tournament which puts me into the Tour Card finals at Blackpool in May.
“If I then win that knock-out competition, that gets me into the International Open, Scottish Open and World Indoor Championships at Potters next season. I told my dad beforehand that if I found the carpet I would win and I found it and won it.
“The first time I entered one of these events when I was 18 and I I won the Superbowl qualifying event, when it was still going. So, the first PBA/WBT competition I ever entered, I won it. I then got to the final of the Scottish qualifying, but lost to Damien Doubler of Wales. Apart from that, it’s been going really well.”