For the Irish Curling Association AGM, 31st March 2012
Fellow Irish Curlers.
May I first thank you for the honour of being elected as your President for a second time. I can truly say that I am enjoying it as much if not more than the first time for various reasons.
Some of these reasons include the steady trickle of new members to the Association-it goes to show that our profile is not waning thankfully and curlers with and without Irish connections are happy to be involved in the Association, and the new faces representing us on the European and World stage this season. The emergence of some talented younger curlers is also a very pleasing aspect of the way that things are going.
We have had a full programme of events this year as you know and I would like to commend all of those who have been able to support these. We have consistently played 6 rinks in our Bonspiels which is great – it would be even better to be able to confidently book 4 sheets of ice but hopefully this will happen if we continue to attract new bodies.
Congratulations to all of the winners of those 4 Bonspiels-at least we didn’t have to cancel due to the weather. We also continue to try and spread these around the ice rinks but ice availability tends to dictate.
We also held a tremendously successful (again) International Bonspiel in Stranraer, most ably organised again by Jim and Kathie Nixon. The local ringers in the form of PJ Wilson et al ran out winners – note to self; handicap required for next year. This event was notable as we welcomed two Canadian couples who were invited by Ron and Jane Paterson and Bill and Mary Radcliffe. A truly International event!!
We lost the Belfast Medal to Ardrossan Castle in our annual fixture at Harvies on what I believe was unbelievably tricky ice. Thanks to the members who represented us there. This is a most important fixture given its history.
We had a most successful time at the 4 nations in Greenacres under the hosting of the Welsh Curling Association. It was great to see so many of our members participating and being part of the “International” arm of the ICA. We beat Wales and lost to Scotland for the first time in years but winning the Turnbull Trophy back from England in such dramatic circumstances with Carolyn Hibberd and her rink closing out the previous English Ladies champions and European A league team by 16-0 will live long in the memory!! Well done indeed to them.
Talking of our international arm, we have made a number of incursions into that field this season.
David Smith and his team travelled to the European Mixed competition in Copenhagen and had a great learning experience coming close to winning more games than they did in tough competitive company. It was particularly pleasing as the team had not played representative curling before.
Our Men’s and Women’s European teams competed in the B league in Moscow which was an amazing trip. The latter had a pretty tough time winning only one game but coming very close in a number of others. The Men did very well and looked on course to reach the final and promotion to the A league. Fate intervened however and having lost both page playoff games had a minor implosion while leading England in the bronze medal game to come home empty handed. For the second year in a row, the team lost out on A league promotion by the tiniest of margins. Both teams will attest to the rise of standard at this level – something which we will have to work hard at to match.
The men’s team, are also indebted to the Olympic Council of Ireland for their support.
Looking forwards; we have a team competing in the World Mixed Doubles event in Ezerum in April – congratulations to Neil Fyfe and Louise Kerr for winning the inaugural ICA mixed doubles back in September. Unfortunately they could not commit to the competition and David Smith and Yvonne Chalmers having been runners up were invited to represent the ICA which they will be doing.
The Men’s and Women’s Seniors teams head for Copenhagen in April also; skipped by Johnjo Kenny and Marie O’Kane while the mixed playdowns were won by Robin Gray’s rink against David Smith which earns them the place at the European Mixed competition next September-again in Ezerum, Turkey. I am sure you will join me in wishing all of these teams the best of luck representing the ICA. The sponsorship from Albert Bartlett has again been most welcome and gratefully received and the input of Mike Graham should be noted.
I must make special mention at this point of the effort that David Smith has made in coordinating our so-called ICADS (ICA development squad). He has organised, cajoled and possibly bullied various members who have been part of this into summer training, autumn training, winter training and spring training as well as entering in a large number of events with them. Great effort David. Thanks
On the horizon and hopefully coming to fruition is the Ice Arena in Santry just outside Dublin. As I write this, I think that ice may be down and that Ice Hockey may well be taking place. We are trying very hard to rationalise a slot in the timetable to allow curling to gain a foothold but further than that, we are pursuing another avenue within the same building to potentially provide a dedicated curling rink which would unlock some more substantial funding from WCF. John Burns and Robin Gray (in Ireland) have been busy meeting with the stakeholders and I myself have made a trip over to see progress. Hopefully this will not turn out to be yet another false dawn but we are doing our absolute utmost to ensure that it is not.
Should this all work out, we have agreed that Scotland will host the 4 Nations in 2013 and we could possibly be in a position to take it to Dublin in 2014. Exciting times!!
So, all in all a very busy year but very rewarding – and rewarding for you as members as well.
I will close by expressing my sincere thanks to all of the committee – Carolyn Hibberd, Johnjo Kenny, David Whyte, Marie O’Kane and Steve Callan. Particular thanks also to our two admin men – Ron Paterson (treasurer) and John Burns (Secretary). Thanks are also due to Isobel Fyfe for co-ordinating the bonspiels from ice booking to name gathering etc., Fiona Turnbull who has run the 100 club but particularly to you – the members for your support and curling this year past. It is most appreciated and rewarding, particularly if feedback is forthcoming.
May I wish you a good summer doing whatever you do and look forward already to the 2012-13 ICA curling season!!
Bill Gray, President.