Ireland Ready for B-League Return

Ireland’s Men are gearing up for the 2022 European Curling Championship in Östersund, Sweden which marks their first appearance in B-Division for a decade. Östersund plays host to both the A and B Division, with international curling returning to the town after the Mixed Doubles and Seniors were staged there in 2018. The Irish gold medal-winning team from Lithuania’s C-Division returns led by skip John Wilson. John is backed up by third Kyle Paradis, second James Russell and lead Craig Whyte. The team will be supported by coach Eoin McCrossan, in their aim to keep Ireland at this level.

The competition consists of 16 teams, split into two groups of 8. The top three teams in each group will proceed to promotion playoffs with a chance to be one of 2 new teams in the 2023 A-Division and at the other end of the standings, the bottom two teams in each group will contest the relegation playoffs to determine the two relegated teams. Ireland are in a group with England, Wales, Lithuania, Ukraine, Slovakia, Finland and Estonia.

John is itching to get going,

“I’m nervously excited, I can’t wait to get going – I’m very happy to return to international competition and feeling good to have the gold-medal winning band back together. Our preparation has been good, with Craig and I taking part in the world mixed and then joined by James from LA and Kyle from Belfast in the build-up. We have been working hard to get ready for championship conditions as well as getting a grilling from Coach Eoin on strategic scenarios – so we feel prepared!”

Ireland last played at this level in 2012 in Karlstad, Sweden and for lead Craig Whyte that was his first international experience,

“I’m excited to be back to try and right the wrongs from 10 years ago! I’m looking forward to playing together again as a team and building on the performance and result from May as well as playing some new teams!”

Although there are new teams lying in wait – Ireland’s first game is against Ukraine in a repeat of May’s C-Division gold medal game. The round-robin portion of the competition runs from Saturday to Thursday with playoffs taking place on Friday and Saturday. You can follow the scores on the WCF website here. You can also keep up to date with the scores and show your support on our social media channels.

NEIL AND CO WIN FYFE TROPHY

Neil Fyfe and his team of Mia Andell, John Burns and Erin Furey won the trophy in memory of his parents, John and Isobel Fyfe, at Greenacres Ice Rink yesterday.

After six teams played a Schenkel of four separate four end games, they were the winners with seven points winning the ICA Open Championships and the coveted gold medals.

The runners-up and silver medallists, on six points, were John Wilson, Eoin McCrossan, Louise Kerr and Ari Furey.

Also on six points, but on one shot less than the silver winners, were bronze medallists David Whyte, Alison Fyfe, John Gilmore and Geraldine Murphy.

Alison Fyfe presented the trophy to the winners and President Eoin was master of ceremonies and shots/ends/points counter-upper.

IRELAND TEAM READY FOR WORLD MIXED CHAMPIONSHIPS

World Mixed Curling Championships 2022 preview

Team Ireland get their international curling campaign off and running today with their first game at the World Mixed Curling Championships taking place in Aberdeen, Scotland. Ireland have fond memories of Curl Aberdeen achieving their best finish at the Championship’s last staging in 2019 reaching the playoff round for the first time. Two of that team make their return to wear the shamrock this time.

Who is Team Ireland?

This year, Ireland are represented by the 2022 Irish Mixed Champions – Team Wilson. They are: John Wilson (Skip), Alison Fyfe, Craig Whyte and Jen Ward. John and Craig were part of the successful 2019 Mixed team as well as the 2022 Men’s team who won the European C-Division gold medal in Lithuania in May. Alison and Jen have played together at several Europeans with Jen making her international debut at the first World Mixed Championship in 2015.

The team are itching to play having been denied the opportunity in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID restrictions and are ably supported by coach Johnjo Kenny – Ireland’s leading caps holder – and Gillian Russell. The team pictured above were successful as winners of the recent Kinross International Bonspiel.

Who are they playing?

Ireland are in group of 9 teams with games against Czech Republic, Sweden, Japan, Latvia, Norway, Nigeria, Ukraine and Chinese Taipei – details below.

The group stage runs from 15th-20th October with the playoffs following. The top 3 teams from each group will qualify for the playoffs. The group winners receive a bye to the quarter finals with the other qualifiers playing off to join them. Sweden and Norway will prove historically stern opposition for Ireland, but a second consecutive playoff place is not beyond the Irish foursome.

How can I keep up to date?

There are three ways to keep up to date with everything at the World Mixed. Firstly, immediate results will be posted after each game on our social media pages – join in the conversation and wish the team well.

Secondly, there are live scores available on the World Curling Federation website. These can be followed here https://worldcurling.org/events/wmxcc2022?pageType=results

Finally, and most excitingly – there is static camera footage available from each game on Recast. Recast is a streaming website where you can spend credits to watch games. Each game costs 50 credits to watch which is the equivalent of 50p – but can be earned by watching ads on the platform. You can find all the games at the World Mixed on The Curling Channel here https://the.recast.app/user/5pYk0

Successful Season Kick Off at Greenacres

The 2022/23 season kicked off in style for the Irish Curling Association as members gathered at Greenacres Curling Rink for an Opening Bonspiel and Training Day. Members were first put through their paces by guest coaches Colin and Drew who helped members shake off any summer rust with drill stations across three sheets focussing on the line-up, working with a laser and sweeping.

This is the second season in succession that an opportunity to get comfortable on the ice has been offered to members and it was once again gratefully received. One member noted, “I’ve never received any formal coaching since I started using a stick to deliver – so that was really helpful”. Another hoped their good form would carry into the bonspiel “It’s not often I get a chance to just practice – when I’m in a game and a shot goes wrong I don’t have any chance to stop and work out why and work on it… Hopefully, this will mean the game later goes totally to plan!”

The opening bonspiel saw 6 teams keenly contest 3 games for early season bragging rights and prizes. The scores were as follows:

  • David Whyte 13–4 Bill Gray
  • Andrew Gilmore 7-3 Eoin McCrossan
  • John Gilmore 9-7 Ross Barr

Some memorable shots were made (and almost made!) by every team. In particular, we were joined by Jordan and Daniel as guests from Glasgow University Curling Club as well as Geraldine Murphy making her first outing to an ICA event.

President Eoin presents prizes to the winning team – Alison Barr, Nathan Furey & David Whyte.

After the games, President Eoin made the presentations to the winning teams – but that wasn’t all! Following the European Championships C-Division, there was one further presentation to be made. Member John Furey had made the trip out to support both teams in a coaching capacity but was unable to stay for the medal ceremony. Totally unknown to John, Eoin revealed the medal and was delighted to be able to present it. “You’ve really got me there” was all John could muster. Special thanks go to his wife Christine who made sure John was at the rink with no idea of why!

Our next event will take place at Greenacres once again with the Irish Fyfe Trophy Open Bonspiel being staged on 30th October.

Ice in Ireland project on firmer footing

CURLING ice in Ireland took a huge step away form the possible towards the probable this week after an exciting development in the Irish capital.

A new feasibility study has made crystal clear the benefits a National Winter Sports Centre would bring to Ireland.

At a meeting earlier this week in Dublin of the Irish Winter Sports Strategy Coordination Group, where the finding of the study were made public for the first time, members of the Olympic Federation of Ireland were briefed by winter sports representatives, government officials and stakeholders.

Eoin pressing the case for curling ice in Ireland

 The Irish Curling Association were represented by President Eoin McCrossan and Ice in Ireland champion David Whyte. Scott Arnold, the World Curling Federation’s development officer, also attended the meeting in Dublin to push for the establishment of a centre for curling in Ireland.

Other winter sports stating the case for a permanent ice facility in Dublin were ice hockey and luge.

The feasibility study, conducted by CHL consulting, presented a private investor funded model that would deliver a €60million permanent ice-facility for Ireland at little or no cost to the tax-payer.

In a series of presentations to stakeholders including local authorities, Sport Ireland, and the Minister of State for Sport, Jack Chambers, the benefits of the facility were explained.

The benefits included generating an economic impact for Ireland of €111 million and delivering €25.5 million to the exchequer during construction phase, as well as €2.05 million annually once operational. Besides the recreational and sporting benefits, it is also estimated that it would generate an additional €8.9 million annual spend in the Greater Dublin Area.

The proposed facility would house two Olympic sized rinks, with one rink having capacity for 6,000 spectators, providing multi-use options for ice and non-ice entertainment, concerts, ice-hockey matches and events, similar to Belfast’s SSE Arena, filling a significant gap in the Dublin market for a mid-size, multi-purpose venue.

Besides the strong economic case for support of a permanent ice-facility, the sport and social benefits also align very strongly with the recommendations from the government’s National Sports Policy. Ice sports generally offer complete gender balance, as well as a wide age-range of participants through sports like curling, ice skating and ice-hockey. Ice facilities also play a significant role in social integration, particularly at a time when Ireland is welcoming large numbers of people from countries where winter sports are integrated with their own cultural identity.

ICA President Eoin McCrossan said: “It cannot be understated how transformational creating a home for curling in Ireland would be. We believe our sport, with true inter-generational appeal, would be accepted in the hearts and minds of the Irish public given that chance. We are delighted to be working together with our fellow winter sports showing that collaboration and unity can create special results. 

“The backing from the World Curling Federation has been key to this point and their guidance support will be essential in any successful facility. The case we are putting forward has been made tangible by the feasibility study. It will provide jobs for Ireland, economic benefit and true social dividend. We are excited to see the next steps in this process ultimately ending with ice in Ireland!”

Scott Arnold, from the WCF added: “The World Curling Federation is happy to support our valued Member, the Irish Curling Association. They have accomplished so much without a dedicated ice rink, and we are encouraged by what we heard during the meetings here in Dublin this week. We have seen exponential growth from other WCF Member Associations upon the completion of their first dedicated ice rinks and would expect nothing less in Ireland. 

“The ICA’s dedication is inspirational, and we look forward to following their progress and continuing to help them achieve their goals.”

Peter Sherrard, the CEO of the Olympic Federation of Ireland commented: “The presentations by the Winter Sports and investors, underpinned by CHL’s feasibility study, show that we have a huge opportunity to create a National Winter Sports centre at little or no cost to the tax payer. Hundreds of new jobs will be created, Ireland will benefit from an investment of over €60m and our sports will at last have permanent facilities akin to almost every other country in the EU. “

We look forward to working with Government and local authority stakeholders to capitalise on this inward investment opportunity for our economy and our sports.”

In memory of Liz Knox

IRISH Curling has lost one of its foundation stones, with the passing of Liz Knox.

Liz (fourth left) at the birth of the ICA in December 1993

Liz, who died on the evening of Friday, June 24, at the age of 85, was part of the original group of curlers who initially formed the Northern Ireland Curling Association, after playing together at Gogar Ice Rink in December 1993, which grew into the all-Ireland organisation we know today.

It was just a couple of months ago she enjoyed a fabulous birthday party surrounded by her family and closest friends in the village of Gateside, where she had lived and held court with all who called, for over a decade.

There are so many wonderful attributes that were part and parcel of Liz, so we’ll list some of them in this tribute, beginning with her open-house hospitality.

If there was a competition on at nearby Greenacres, the Irish party was on at her house. Wherever the Four Nations was being held, the drinks were in Liz’s room. At the annual Stranraer weekend she was, for many, many years, at the heart of the social whirl there. Curling, chatting, drinking, laughing and of course, selling copious amounts of raffle tickets for ICA funds.

One shining example of her open-doors policy for anyone was the night the Irish teams heading to the Europeans in Switzerland in 2010 had their fights delayed. Left with the prospect of the cold airport floor for the night, Liz and her co-host and dear friend, Carolyn Hibberd, got a message out to the lost souls that the fire was roaring, the wine decanted, a brace of pheasants roasting away nicely and the beds warming at Rosedene.

With little notice the ‘Gateside Two’ had conjured up a feast fit for royalty and a memorable evening ensued with Liz the conductor of it all into the wee small hours of the morning.

We will also remember her immense kindness, her sense of fairness, her respect for tradition, the proper way of doing things and her stoicism and resilience whatever life threw at her.

She was proud of her international cap for Ireland when she played in the 2007 World Senior Championships in Edmonton, Alberta, when she travelled as the alternate in the late Fiona Turnbull’s team.

Liz forged great friendships with those ‘Irish girls’ over the years, with Carolyn of course, and also with Kathie Nixon and the late Isobel Fyfe and Fiona Turnbull. They enjoyed their annual lunch gatherings and with Liz in full flow the conversation was always sparkling. The lot of them could also make a fair ol’ dent in a bottle of ‘Isobel’s recipe’ which was not for anyone with a delicate digestive system.

We shall miss Liz Knox and her megawatt smile, her twinkling eyes and her voice. Oh, we shall miss her melodious, contralto voice, which always sounded like she had been gargling with teak oil.

Rest in peace Liz, you have enriched all our lives and will remain etched in our Irish hearts.

Carolyn knew Liz better than anyone and adds this personal tribute to her friend and fellow original ICA member:

“Gateside Village will be a lonelier place for many people with the
passing of Liz.

“For over forty years we have been friends and neighbours. Curling was
our glue, playing together with the local Ladies Club and in mixed
weekends with our husbands. Many social evenings were spent on the ice followed by some food, a few drams, lots of stories and laughter with
the neighbours. When the ICA began we both proudly became founder
members and that gave Liz wonderful new experiences and special
friendships.

“Liz was a gifted hostess, a splendid cook and an entertaining guest. The
family had a special way of bringing together friends with different
interests and hobbies and making everyone feel so much at ease and very
welcome.

“The Knoxs’ and their constant Labrador companions spent many happy
holidays in Orkney, and fishing, shooting and Pony Club were also much
enjoyed family activities. Liz was a constant valued supporter
throughout her beloved daughters Ailie and Lorna and granddaughters
Georgia and Thandi’s Pony Club days.

“After the passing of Hugh, Liz eventually moved from the family farm to
the heart of the village where she was surrounded by friends. She loved
her garden and spent many happy hours in her summer house. Even in her
last few weeks Liz hosted a splendid birthday party lunch and attended
the village Jubilee Picnic.  She never lost her zest for life.

“Liz will be very much missed by her family and by all whose lives she
touched.  We all feel sad now but we will remember the fun times. 
“That’s what Liz would want.”

50 CAPS FOR CLARE

CONGRATULATIONS to Clare McCormick who received her 50th cap for Ireland yesterday in the game against the newly-crowned senior world champions Switzerland.

Clare’s first game was in the C League with the Irish women’s team in 2014 in Zoetermeer against Slovakia.

WSCC – DAY 7

IRELAND’S senior women went out of the world championships in the play off game against Switzerland 8-5 yesterday morning after a great run in the competition.

World Senior Curling Championships 2022, Geneva, Switzerland
World Senior Curling Championships 2022, Geneva, Switzerland

They were in control of the game until the seventh end when the Swiss got stones behind cover and Irish skip Dale’s last stone, looking to lock the shot stone on the button to restrict the Swiss to a single, came up short. The Swiss then tried to draw for four but were happy to take three in a game that had been getting away from them.

World Senior Curling Championships 2022, Geneva, Switzerland

The Irish were confident of getting a one or a two at the last end and Dale had a short run back with her last stone on an excellent draw from Swiss skip Christina Lysander behind an Irish stone just outside the 12 foot. After taking a time out, the Irish elected the run back option, with the outside chance the Swiss shot stone could also be angled back on to the second Swiss stone in the back 12, leaving Ireland lying two for the win, but Dale’s stone didn’t draw quite enough and the Swiss took a two and were into the semi finals after scrapping for their lives on the ice in Geneva.

World Senior Curling Championships 2022, Geneva, Switzerland
World Senior Curling Championships 2022, Geneva, Switzerland
World Senior Curling Championships 2022, Geneva, Switzerland

So, it’s goodbye from the seniors and over to the young ones in green out in Lithuania for the C League.

WSCC DAY 6 – part two

THE last round-robin session tonight saw Ireland’s men go down 7-6 to the Czech Republic after a ding-dong battle. The defeat means the Irish can no longer progress to the knock-out stages, ten years after the epic victory in Taarby.

Ross Barr, Neil Fyfe, David Whyte, Bill Gray and Johnjo Kenny – photo credit WCF

The game didn’t get off to the best of starts with the loss of a three, but after exchanging singles, Ireland hit back with a three in the fourth end. It really should have been a four with JJ attempting to catch the edge of a stone out side the rings to shuffle a daisy chain of stones forward to get the last one in the rings and roll his stone over for the four but it just missed catching the edge of the stone and sailed into the rings for a three.

After losing a two, Ireland ramped up the pressure on their opponents and after taking a one, stone a one in the seventh end to level the scores.

In the last end they could not get hidden anywhere behind cover and with the clock down to eight seconds, Johnjo’s attempt and a hit and roll behind cover hit and rolled out it was alla over for 2022 in Geneva.

The Irish women play Switzerland at 1pm in the playoff game for the semi final with the winner meeting Scotland later in the day.