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Gary Kelly writes himself in the history books

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Gary Kelly wants to be the man to bring some Commonwealth Games history to Northern Ireland.

It’s been a memorable week in Birmingham with 15 medals guaranteed across a range of sports, meaning the team have already equaled their best result from the 1986 Games in Edinburgh.

Kelly defeated South African Jason Evans 21-12 in the men’s bowls singles semi-final and now faces Malaysia’s Fairul Abd Muin in the last four.

But while a medal is what he wants, he is looking to improve on the bronze he won 12 years ago in Delhi.

And two more victories would end a 24-year wait for Northern Ireland bowling gold, dating back to the four-way success of Gary McCloy, Ian McClure, Martin McHugh and Neil Booth in Kuala Lumpur.

“I know all the players who have represented Northern Ireland over the years and to do something that they did would be very special, but I mustn’t look too far ahead,” said Kelly, taking part in his third Games here in Birmingham.

“Northern Ireland bowling is now in a fantastic place. We have worked hard to develop the academies and regional teams and it is paying off here.

“It’s a fun and exciting team to be a part of and when you feel good and happy it can’t hurt your performance.”

Four years ago Northern Ireland weren’t on the bowling podium, with seven of the ten team making their debuts here with 33-year-old Kelly the oldest statesman.

He took control of his game against Evans early on and quickly built a decisive advantage. Australian Aaron Wilson, defending Gold Coast singles champion, also advanced and will face Scotland’s Iain McLean in the other semi-final.

“It’s fantastic to reach the semi-finals, they are the best guys in the world, and I gave myself a chance to win a medal,” added Kelly, who is undefeated after winning all the group matches.

“The confidence is good and having won every game so far doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t get any easier from here. I just have to stay focused and keep trusting in my own abilities.

“I got off to a very good start and was able to control the game, I integrated into the game well.”

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