Brier bits 5

Your roving reporter has now moved north to cousin’s farm on the outskirts of Stettler, right in the middle of Alberta. It’s blue sky and snow swept freezing prairie outside but we are cosy warm in the basement watching wall to wall Brier coverage. We have just had our hearts broken by Brad Gushue of Newfoundland / Labrador who nailed the most incredible run back double to move two Alberta stones off the button to get a single in the 10th. That was after our hero Kevin Koe had played two dead draws to get Alberta into what seemed to be a game winning position. To watch this wonderful game go to TSN and go to the curling option and then click on VOD.

Northern Ontario roll on and win number 9 this afternoon against Saskatchewan puts them in the 1 v 2 play-off. Saskatchewan and Newfoundand are next in the table with Quebec going really well too. The new look Team Canada won both their games today against British Columbia and Ontario.  It was interesting this morning to hear the commentators say how much respect the BC team had for their former teammate Johnny Morris. The lead was grateful for the advice the 2010 Olympic gold medallist gave him when he played with the BC team last season,  including taking him to yoga classes to improve his flexibility and to learn to control his breathing when he gets into pressure situations.

Having the timeclocks set to ‘thinking time’ is catching some teams out. In last night’s battle of Alberta between Team Canada and Koe’s provincial winners both teams were spoken to by the umpire after four very slow ends. They teams then agreed to race through the fifth to get themselves ahead of time again.

Happy Birthday Mr President!

Happy Birthday PJ – he doesn’t look 60….does he?

irish-balloons-thA very big Happy Birthday to our President PJ Wilson from all the members of the Irish Curling Association.

Peter has been a tremendous servant to the cause of Irish curling over the years from that first memorable trip to Sofia, Bulgaria in December 2004 with the men’s team for the Europeans, on to Garmish, Germany in 2005, Lowell, USA and Basel, Switzerland in 2006, Füssen, Germany in 2007, Örnsköldsvik, Sweden in 2008 and coach at Aberdeen, Scotland in 2009. His senior career began in Minneapolis-St Paul’s, USA in 2011, then to Fredericton, Canada in 2013. Quite a record.

Here are some photographic memories of Peter’s curling adventures.

Early days when he was Scottish!

Early days when he was Scottish!

Playing for Ireland in Fredericton in 2013

Playing for Ireland in Fredericton in 2013

Skipping the team at his first world seniors in 2011

Skipping the team at his first world seniors in 2011

His first Irish outing  in Sofia  at the Europeans 2004

His first Irish outing in Sofia at the Europeans 2004

Up the top of a ski jump in Sweden!

Up the top of a ski jump in Sweden!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only once has his normal air of diplomatic bonhomie disappeared and that was at the Europeans in Aberdeen in 2009.Ireland’s men were playing Wales when Adrian Meikle pulled out the world’s greatest ever fluke shot. Up on the coaches’bench, right beside the Welsh contingent, PJ momentarily forgot the video also had a microphone……..

Brier bits 4

What

A Timmy's a day......is the Canadian way.

A Timmy’s a day……is the Canadian way.

a difference a day makes. Johnny Morris relinquised skipping duties today and Pat Simmonds took over. Suddenly the dynamic changed within Team Canada and they won both their games. Last night Johnny Mo looked more like Billy Nomates but tonight he was making the shots, talking the talk and walking the walk. Way more comfortable playing third stones.

Team Canada beat Alberta tonight in a game that was given huge publicity in Calgary as both Morris and Alberta skip Kevin Koe play out of the same club here in the city. The game hinged on a rare miss from Koe when he threw his inturn hit for a double a fraction wide and, to quote the commentator,  “it rode the railway tracks” hitting the first shot but missing the second. Pat Simmonds drew for two to take a two shot lead into the last end. Both teams played a wonderful last end and Koe was left with a difficult in- wick to the button to get his two but just missed shifting the Team Canada shot off the pot lid.

No-one has laid a glove on Northern Ontario so far. They have seven wins and look different class. Of all the chopping and changing of personel that the other teams have done these four Sault St Marie curlers have been together since they were teenagers.

The telly does make them look much bulkier than they are in the flesh. They are built like 400 metre runners, apart from Fry who is the bantem weight boxer type.

Great views of the Rockies from where we are staying. Such a great vibrant city. This is the third time I have been here and the eighth time I have been to Canada.  I just love the country. And minus 18 with a windchill of -24 is a novelty to me! The cold never bothered me anyway.

Food list today was – chocolate chip cookie, Timmy’s Brier doughnut, ham and tomato piece, cinnamon bun with cream cheese frosting, cheese puffs, shrimps in sauce and raspberry tart and a pint of chocolate milk!

 

Brier bits 3

Everyone sings the Canadian National Anthem before each draw

Everyone sings the Canadian National Anthem before each draw

Team Canada discuss their optiona against New Brunswick

Team Canada discuss their options against New Brunswick this afternoon.

The wean magnet. Ah well, makes a change from cats.

The wean magnet. Ah well, makes a change from cats.

Just back from watching Team Canada go 7-0 down after four ends against Saskatchewan. Poor Johnny Mo had a shocker. My cousin is convinced he is suffering from the curse of the Irish pin.

Team Canada finally got on the board and chipped away but they lost the game and you can see they are feeling the pressure of being the first Team Canada. Not having had to pre-qualify has put them at a disadvantage at this level. Northern Ontario on the other hand are pin sharp and a lean mean curling machine. One shot an inch out of place and they will eat you for breakfast. Koe won again tonight but his last draw was light played and his sweepers carried it miles. The home crowd also helped by roaring encouragement to the two sweepers to keep pumping those arms all the way. PEI have been a surprise but all that young team have played some excellent shots and are unfazed by any of the teams they meet.

Off the ice it was minus 16 today and we battled through a blizzard to get to Tim Hortons coffee shop for my ‘Timmys’ hit. The snow storm thankfully passed but it will be minus 30 tomorrow before ‘warming up’ later in the week.

Today I ate a jelly doughnut then a Timmys Brier doughnut. Lunch was the buffet in the posh restaurant in the Saddledome again with my usual five puddings. Then it was a beer – I like the local Calgary brewed Original 16. Then a hot dog followed by a slice of pepperoni pizza and a mango smoothie!

Success at Braehead

IMG_1221Team Gray in the upcoming Irish Mixed Playdowns got together to play in the Brechin and Allcomers Trophy event at Braehead on Sunday.

Great to see new member Jacqui Barr joining up with Dad, Ross, for the first time on the ice, alongside Margarita Sweeney-Baird and Bill Gray who had hot-footed it from the Rink Championships in Forfar.

The newly formed team won all four of their 5 end games to lift the Brechin Trophy in the 4 game schenkel competition. Skip Bill said the quickfire competition was like speed dating on ice but he was delighted for the four of them to get a run out before the playdowns at the end of March.

Brier bits 2

The Saddledome

The Saddledome

Hanging out with cousin Rhonda at the Brier Patch

Hanging out with cousin Rhonda at the Brier Patch

A smile from Kevin.

A smile from Kevin.

Would you Adam and Eve it. The things you learn when you are sipping a beer in the Brier Patch. Turns out cousin Liz’s husband Rodney’s brother Kevin was married to Hec Gervais‘  daughter!

Today Kevin Koe got back to winning ways after two defeats. His Alberta team beat Onterio tonight quite comfortably. He must be the coolest dude in curling. It doesn’t matter if he nails a triple or stuffs a four foot draw through the back his face never shows a trace of emotion. No fist pumping, no roaring at the sweepers, no brush banging and no high fives. Zen like state of calm control.

Today I ate – a jelly doughnut, a cinnamon ring, buffet lunch was ham, ceasar salad, potato gratin, blueberry pie, chocolate slice, strawberries and cherry pie, then nanchos and cheese followed by a huge pretzel and two beers!

That was three games today so I am getting wabbit (taught my 5 year old cousin Olivia a new word today – ‘boak’ as in ‘Kevin Koe looked like he was going to boak’).

Brier bits

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Kevin Koe's slide is amazing.

Kevin Koe’s slide is amazing.

The Brier trophy

The Brier trophy

Met Johnny Mo outside the Brier Patch. He was thrilled to bits to receive an ICA pin!

Heaven on earth for me here – great curling, country music thumping out at the Brier Patch and wall to wall junk food.

Curling wise Johnny Mo and team Canada won a tight game v Manitoba and tonight a clearly unwell Kevin Koe lost after an extra end to British Columbia. He spend most of the first five ends in the toilet.

Pistol Pete wins Stranraer weekend

High Road winners

High Road winners

Peter Wilson and his rink of Lauren Morgan, Gerald Bailey and Margarita Sweeney-Baird were the popular winners of  the Stranraer International Weekend Bonspiel, topping the High Road with seven points.

High Road runners-up

High Road runners-up

Runners-up on six points were  Stewart Wilson (Peter’s brother), Elaine Turnbull, Tommy Campbell and Anne Stenhouse on six points. They had the same points and ends as Johnjo Kenny’s team but had a better shots total. John Burns’ team were fourth on six points. Neil Fyfe and Jim Cullen scored five points, PJD Wilson three and Bill Byers held up the High Road section on two points.

Low road winners

Low road winners

In the Low Road competition, the winners were Michael Sutherland, Fiona Turnbull, Ross Barr and Alison Barr on six points.

Low Road runners-up

Low Road runners-up

The runners-up were Andy Robinson, Rhona Robinson, Alan Griffiths and Rosemary Griffiths on four points.

At the end of a grand weekend of curling, cuisine and craic, ICA President PJD asked wife Anne to hand over £25 McMillan Castle Hotel vouchers to the High Road winners; Tipperary Crystal wine glasses and boxes of red wine to the runner-up; boxes of Tayto crisps to the Low Road winners; Irish themed books to the Low Road runners-up and the consolation prize of  cans of Guinness to newcomer Ken Hutchison’s team.

Ken and Anne Hutchison were taking part for the first time.

Ken and Anne Hutchison were taking part for the first time.

It was great to welcome new member Jonny Harper over from Belfast to play in his first ICA event as lead to Marie O’Kane but the talking point of the whole weekend had to be Irish Pete’s fantastic last end last shot double raise double take out on Sunday morning to score four for the win against PJD when he was two down and PJD had one shot and was possibly lying two, with both stones buried behind a wall of stones. We are hoping to get the clip of the ‘shot of the weekend’ from the Stranraer Ice Rink video tapes for the ICA webpage.

Jonny on the right at the end of Marie's game against Bill

Jonny on the right at the end of Marie’s game against Bill

Saturday night’s raffle raised £300 for ICA funds. Thanks to all who brought raffle prizes and bought tickets.

Playdowns looming

The playdowns for the ICA men’s championships will be played at Dumfries Ice Bowl on Friday, March 6th; Saturday March 7th and Sunday March 8th.

There are two teams entered:

Peter Wilson, Andrew Gilmore, Alan Mitchell, Tony Tierney (Robin Gray unavailable for playdowns).

James Russell, John Furey, Johnjo Kenny, Arran Cameron, Eoin McCrossan (Craig Whyte unavailable for playdowns).

The championship will be a ‘best of five’ format  – all games 10 ends – with the winners going forward to represent Ireland at the European C League in Champrey, Switzerland, 12th – 17th October.

Three teams have entered for the Irish Mixed Championships:

Johnjo Kenny, Marie O’Kane, Tony Tierney, Jen Ward

Neil Fyfe, Alison Fyfe, David Whyte, Ailsa Anderson

Bill Gray, Margarita Sweeney-Baird, Ross Barr, Jacqui Barr

The playdowns for this will take place at Dumfries Ice Bowl on Saturday, 28th March and Sunday, 29th March. Round-robin games will be followed by a semi-final and then a final. The winners will represent Ireland at the World Mixed Curling Championships in Berne, Switzerland, 12th – 19th September.