Mixed blessings

THE granite came finally to rest for the domestic ICA season with the Mixed Challenge at Greenacres Ice Rink at the weekend.
After three hard fought games it was Team Gray – Robin Gray, Louise Kerr, Johnjo Kenny and Hazel Gormley-Leahy – who will represent Ireland at the European Mixed Championships in September – destination unknown.
It did cross my mind to put up a post yesterday morning saying the WCF had announced it was back in Erzurum, but fear of giving our skip a cardiac arrest stopped me in my tracks.
The play-off deservedly went the distance as the teams were very evenly matched. Everyone played some great shots but missed the odd one too.
Even looking at the linescores it’s difficult to remember exactly how it all unfolded. It’s much easier to do that sitting on your ars* in the bar watching. Those supporters behind the glass on Friday night who were busy discussing their summer holiday destinations at the start of the seventh end with the score at 6 -1 in Team Gray’s favour, soon turned their attention back to the ice as car crash curling left Neil Fyfe with a simple draw for a five to even the score going into the last. However, Robin Gray make a name for himself in curling by knowing how to draw the four foot and he duly delivered with the last stone of the game for the win.
The second game was very close at the way through with the Fyfe-led foursome stealing a two in the seventh to put the pressure on the opposition. In the last end was woefully short with a draw and I will still be playing that shot again (at the right weight) for at least another couple of weeks! For Robin’s last stone he tried a tricky wick- in to go for a championship-winning three but in the end it didn’t work out so we were into the high-noon decider.
Tem Fyfe – Helen Wilson, Billl Gray, Alison Fyfe and Neil Fyfe now had their tails up and sniffed blood when taking a two at the first end. Apart from Team Gray blanking the second it was two’s all the way after that.
The turning point was, once again, the seventh when Gray’s rink playing a steady end and had three shots locked around the button with only Neil’s last stone to come. Even at HIS strike weight he could only remove one cleanly. A second oppostion stone spun out as far as the 12 foot and was declared second shot after a measure. That steal of two left the Gray quartet with the straightforward job of running their opposition out of stones in the last end.
But Team Fyfe fought all the way and had three in the rings at the business end of the decider.  Frantic sweeping (stiff arms this morning) saw Robin’s last strike whistle past a guard by a whisker to lift a double and secure Team Gray’s second Irish mixed title.
It was unfortunate that PJ Wilson’s infamous back problem came back to haunt him a few days before the challenge but Bill Gray was a more than adequate replacement and Team Wilson did him proud on the ice. Hopefully, coming so close to glory will have fired them up for next season’s mixed competition.
Off the ice it was an enjoyable social  weekend and  thanks go especially to Carolyn Hibberd and Liz Knox for accommodation and sustenance for various team members.
Hazel came all the way from Malaga to reaquaint herself with the game of curling after a break of six months. We worked as a team  with Johnjo  translating Robin’s on ice instructions for her while I had  to explain the Greenacres scoreboard system on several occasions. Could she get her head round the score was in the middle and the ends went above or below – no. In the end I told her: “Mon ami, for someone who speaks four languages it’s not ******* rocket science.”
So…….moving on…….what happens in September?
If anyone out there has offical news the mixed IS at Murrayfield can you let us – and wee Evie – know please.

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