THE competitive outdoor bowling season bursts into action tomorrow (Friday) evening as the opening fixtures in the East Lothian Leagues are staged around the length and breadth of the county.

Officials at East Lothian Bowling Association (ELBA) have confirmed that Prestonpans, Tranent and Gullane-based company East Coast Carpets has kindly agreed to be league sponsors for an eighth consecutive year.

As ever, the main spotlight is on the race for the blue riband Division 1 title and holders Cockenzie & Port Seton get the defence of their crown under way on their own patch against West Barns.

The champions go into this campaign with the same squad of players that served them so well last season and the club is buzzing after the recent double gold medal heroics of club champion Derek Oliver at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.

West Barns, meanwhile, survived a close relegation shave last season but if they can get all their top players firing and playing on a regular basis they should have no such issues this campaign.

Newly-promoted Elphinstone face a tough opening-game challenge as they head to Tranent-based EL-Coop but the ‘Peepers’ have boosted their squad by capturing the double signing of county side regulars Ross Thomson and Stephen Cochrane from their opening-week opponents, while Declan French returns to his native club following a short spell at Aberlady.

EL-Coop have also been busy in the close-season transfer window and have snapped up Alex Cormack from neighbours Tranent, along with the talented Dean Riva from Gifford.

It should be quite a night at Haddington when their first and second teams go head-to-head in an opening week showdown.

The club have confirmed the signing of former junior cap David Sked from Gifford, while Jamie Blair also returns to the limelight after a self-imposed break from the game.

One piece of negative news for the Hi Hi is that influential Glenn Blair is set to miss the whole season as he continues his recovery from a serious hand injury.

Tranent start with a home game against Dunbar and they include a familiar face in their opening week line-up in the shape of Dean Higgins following his switch from Midlothian side Pathhead, while the visitors parade new signing Liam Gallagher following his winter move from West Barns.

East Linton open at home against Castlepark and the former’s ranks have been severely boosted by the return to the club of former players Kevin Dean and Calvert Allison, while they have also secured the services of experienced campaigner Ian ‘Dinger’ Bell from Haddington.

Their visitors tomorrow also welcome back a former player in the shape of James Hogg but his appearances could be curtailed as the Edinburgh-based ace juggles playing commitments with his primary club Carrick Knowe.

The action also gets under way in Divisions 2-4 tomorrow night with the following fixtures:

l Division 2 – Athelstaneford v Ormiston; Longniddry v Cockenzie & Port Seton A; Prestongrange v EL-Coop A; Macmerry v Gifford; Winton v Aberlady.

l Division 3 – Dunbar A v East Lothian Labour; Castlepark A v East Linton A; Aberlady A v Haddington B; Tranent A v Cockburnspath; Prestongrange A v Cockenzie & Port Seton B.

l Division 4 – Castlepark B v Prestongrange B; Dirleton v West Barns A; Macmerry A v Stenton; Ormiston A v North Berwick.

All clubs in Divisions 1-4 are reminded that the starting time for the opening four games of the season is 6.30pm.

The action in the Thursday afternoon Senior Leagues gets under way next Thursday (May 3) with a full card in Divisions 1-3.

Club secretaries are requested to ensure that all league and cup results, including shots aggregate score, are phoned into ELBA match secretary Keith Fender on 01620 860217 or via text message (07786 110416) immediately after each match.

Bowls fans can keep up-to-date with all that is happening on the outdoor scene in the Garden County by following the website by ELBA at eastlo