Fellow Irish Curlers.
On sitting down to write this report, and as I contemplate the end of my second stint as your President, I have to say that the events of last April still bring a smile and feeling of ultimate pride in that I was fortunate to be President when we won our first World Championship as a curling nation. The fact that I was also a player was the icing on the cake. Let this not be last time that a President is able to write that!! I could of course bore you to tears with another full account of what that win meant to the ICA but I know that I don’t need to!!
We have had another busy international programme this year. Since the last AGM, David Smith and Yvonne Chalmers have represented us at the World Mixed Doubles in Erzurum and were then followed in September to the same place by the European Mixed team skipped by Robin Gray. That they all managed to get back in one piece is a testament to Irish fortitude and good luck more than anything else.
The men’s European team took on a new look this year with a squad skipped by Alan Mitchell carrying the colours to Karlstad. They found it a steep learning curve after coming out of the blocks well against a strong Latvian team but all have gained experience of international competition and will look to gain promotion back out of the C league next season. I do hope that we may be able to field a Ladies European Team next season as well.
We have as you know already had playdowns for the World Seniors in Canada with Peter Wilson’s rink running out winners against Johnjo Kenny’s World Championship team and playdowns are soon to be played for the European Mixed Championships. On behalf of the ICA may I congratulate all of our international representatives for taking the time and money to represent Ireland and for being excellent ambassadors for yourselves and Irish Curling and also wish the teams competing in the World Seniors the best of luck. I must also mention the input of Gordon McIntyre who helped to prepare many of these teams. He now revels in being a World Champion Coach of course!! Carolyn has enlisted his help also in working with a ladies squad this and next season.
The lifeblood of the Association is our membership and it has been pleasing that we are now picking up some new and dare I say it younger curlers as members of the ICA which bodes well for the future both from the Associations point of view and also for representative curling.
The Bonspiels this season have been well supported – none more so than this one today – and I thank all of those who have participated in the various events that we have held. Feedback is always a good thing and would be gratefully received by the committee. Congratulations to all of the Bonspiel winners and participants.
The 4 Nations was held in Ayr this year where we came up against some pretty strong opposition (although not always playing for the correct nation!!). We very narrowly lost the Turnbull Trophy to England and the Meikle Trophy to Wales but thankfully managed to wrest the Marshall Millennium Trophy out of Scotland’s grasp by a similarly narrow margin. Again, we managed to give everyone who wished to play the opportunity to do so and congratulations and thanks to all of those who participated. It will be our turn to host the 4 nations next season.
The International Bonspiel at Stranraer was one of the best yet. I noted that I had suggested a handicap to the local rink skipped by PJ Wilson which must have worked to a degree as he was usurped this year by another Peter Wilson who fought off the challenge of Neil Fyfe in the last match to clinch the crown. Stranraer connections still hold sway!
The event was notable in that Jim and Kathie Nixon have decided to hand over the reins after organising a number of very successful weekends. Again on behalf of the ICA I must thank them most sincerely for all of their efforts.
I also noted that I wrote last year that we lost the Belfast Medal to Ardrossan Castle on ‘unbelievably tricky ice’. I can report that this year we unfortunately again lost the medal by some 10 shots on ‘absolutely diabolical ice’ at Auchenharvie. We must endeavour to host this event next year at a different ice rink!
Talking of Ice Rinks, we have again been hugely frustrated with developments or to be more correct, lack of developments over the Irish Sea. As you know and was widely predicted, the Santry project stumbled and ultimately fell off the radar due to lack of funds. Since then, an organisation has built an Ice Dome in Belfast but there is no space in this facility for curling. The company has plans to open a number of these facilities around Ireland and there is hope that the site in Dublin may have sufficient space for a two sheet rink alongside the Ice Rink. We have again contacted the Dundonald Ice Bowl with little effect and so once again we seem to be back at the drawing board stage. This is hugely frustrating and it is very difficult to remain optimistic about the prospects of an Irish Curling presence in Ireland but we must remain positive. John Burns has followed up on all of these projects over the years and we are most grateful to you John, for remaining committed to the cause.
I must express my sincere thanks to all of the committee – Carolyn Hibberd, Peter Wilson, David Whyte, Marie O’Kane, Alan Mitchell and Steve Callan who has taken over the running of the 100 Club. It is not always straight forward juggling the different demands of the various activities within the ICA but I think they do a great job on your behalf. Thanks are also due to Isobel Fyfe for co-ordinating the bonspiels from ice booking to name gathering and so on, Louise Kerr and Christine Furey for co-ordinating the website and blogs.
There will be a major change in the committee this year with the retirement of Ron Paterson as Treasurer and John Burns as Secretary. We owe these gentlemen a huge vote of thanks for their work over the years in these posts.
My final thanks are to all of our members for their unswerving support for the ICA and also for me as I have carried out my two year’s Presidency.
I have been hugely honoured to have been your President and hope that I have carried out my duties in a manner that is deserving of your representation. I will close as I started by unashamedly mentioning the World Seniors win in Copenhagen. The support that the team received both during the competition but particularly when we got back was overwhelming and humbling. It proved to me that the Association is in good heart and I retire my Presidency happy in that knowledge.
I thank you again for giving me the opportunity to serve this Association as President.
Yours in Curling,