Ireland men’s senior curling team – Johnjo Kenny, Bill Gray, David Whyte, Tony Tierney and David Hume, sponsored by Albert Bartlett, become World Champions after a 6-5 extra end victory against Canada.
Here is Louise Kerr’s final blog from Tårnby …..
MENS FINAL – IRELAND 6 CANADA 5 – AFTER EXTRA END.
Ireland’s mens senior curling team – Johnjo Kenny, Bill Gray, David Whyte, Tony Tierney and David Hume stand on the top the world senior curling rankings this morning after winning gold at an extra end against the hot favourites Canada yesterday afternoon at Tårnby curling rink in Copenhagen in a roller-coaster World Seniors final.
The rink here in Copenhagen erupted in delight for the Irish when Canadian skip Kelly Robertson’s last draw to the four foot was heavy. But the momentum had been taken away from the Canadians a few minutes earlier when Irish skip Johnjo pulled off the most fantastic last gasp triple runback that left the Irish lying shot and half guarded.
The team came into the final knowing they had a medal in the bag, but having got to the final undefeated in nine games, they all realised it was the gold they wanted. After canny exchanges in the first few ends, a big four in the fourth end put the Irish firmly in the driving seat. The Canadian skip had tried to raise one of his own front stones into a bunch of stones in the head, but caught it too thin. Johnjo saw he had a straightforward double to spring the two Canadian stones left in the house. ‘The Big Man’ absolutely nailed it. 4-1 to Ireland at the half time break. Could they really do it?
It was never going to be easy against Canada and the nerve ends were frayed among the Irish supporters and the team then gave up four shots against the head as the team from Manitoba clawed their way back.
The sixth end was a nightmare from an Irish point of view. Error after error was punished and when Bill Gray’s last attempt to draw behind two guards, which was perfect for weight, was over-swept, it wasn’t looking good. With two Canadian stones hidden in the house, Johnjo’s only shot was a tricky double but he caught the guards losing a two.
The Irish were now in the last chance saloon in the eighth end but every single one of them kept their nerve and played what was asked of them. Although Canada lay two, Johnjo cooly drew the four foot for the extra end.
Excitement in the packed gallery upstairs was at boiling point as things came down to the wire and it was all going Canada’s way in the decider. The Canadians also had the last stone so the Irish needed to conjure up something very special.
With four stones to come, with his first, Johnjo drew to the top of the four foot sitting in front of two Canadian stones sitting in square on the tee line. Robertson’s reply was to draw a third shot in, trying to get a rub off his own stone and block the Irish raise. But the Canadian yellow stones sat in a semi circle. Johnjo and his third Bill discussed their options and elected to hit the Irish front stone into the Canadian shots. It would have to be a miracle shot – and it was! Played a strike weight, it rammed the Irish stone into the nest of Canadian stones, moving them all, leaving the Irish lying shot and half guarded at the edge of the four foot. Afterwards, Johnjo said that when all the granite had finally come to rest he had looked down and thought: ‘Yes. I’ll take that’.
It seemed no time till Robertson’s last stone was heading down the sheet aiming for the four foot and the win but, halfway down, there was a shout of: ‘He’s heavy, he’s heavy, HE’S HEAVY!’ from excitable Irish coach Gordon McIntyre. As the skip’s stone sailed past the Irish counter there was a primal roar of delight from everyone watching, bar the Canadians, that must have been heard back in Dublin, for the popular Irish team
Ireland, one of the smallest curling nations in the world had just beaten the biggest in a world championships. Not only did they win gold they went through the whole championships, ten games, undefeated.
Every members of the team has been immense this week. Johnjo with his tactical brilliance and shot making under pressure has proved his mettle. Bill Gray has pulled off a clutch of crucial shots just when the team needed them and none more so than the double take out across the house that turned the semi final against Norway in Ireland’s favour. David Whyte has been steady as a rock and must have had percentages in every game in the nineties. Tony Tierney has had a great tournament at lead and Irish statisticians have now lost count of the tick shots he made – the hardest shot in the book. David Hume has been a superb fifth man, looking after the team and giving them 100 per cent support on and off the ice. Finally, the team would not have got up the mountain to gold without the help over the last few weeks of Irish Coach Gordon McIntyre. As always, Gordon put his heart and soul into his role and gave the winning team the valuable help and advise they needed when they needed it.
The question now is will they defend the title next year? Some feel it’s best to go out at the top and let others try and match what they have achieved. But there is always the thought – what could be better than defending the title in Canada and beating the Canadians again but this time on their home patch.