Ice in Ireland project on firmer footing

CURLING ice in Ireland took a huge step away form the possible towards the probable this week after an exciting development in the Irish capital.

A new feasibility study has made crystal clear the benefits a National Winter Sports Centre would bring to Ireland.

At a meeting earlier this week in Dublin of the Irish Winter Sports Strategy Coordination Group, where the finding of the study were made public for the first time, members of the Olympic Federation of Ireland were briefed by winter sports representatives, government officials and stakeholders.

Eoin pressing the case for curling ice in Ireland

 The Irish Curling Association were represented by President Eoin McCrossan and Ice in Ireland champion David Whyte. Scott Arnold, the World Curling Federation’s development officer, also attended the meeting in Dublin to push for the establishment of a centre for curling in Ireland.

Other winter sports stating the case for a permanent ice facility in Dublin were ice hockey and luge.

The feasibility study, conducted by CHL consulting, presented a private investor funded model that would deliver a €60million permanent ice-facility for Ireland at little or no cost to the tax-payer.

In a series of presentations to stakeholders including local authorities, Sport Ireland, and the Minister of State for Sport, Jack Chambers, the benefits of the facility were explained.

The benefits included generating an economic impact for Ireland of €111 million and delivering €25.5 million to the exchequer during construction phase, as well as €2.05 million annually once operational. Besides the recreational and sporting benefits, it is also estimated that it would generate an additional €8.9 million annual spend in the Greater Dublin Area.

The proposed facility would house two Olympic sized rinks, with one rink having capacity for 6,000 spectators, providing multi-use options for ice and non-ice entertainment, concerts, ice-hockey matches and events, similar to Belfast’s SSE Arena, filling a significant gap in the Dublin market for a mid-size, multi-purpose venue.

Besides the strong economic case for support of a permanent ice-facility, the sport and social benefits also align very strongly with the recommendations from the government’s National Sports Policy. Ice sports generally offer complete gender balance, as well as a wide age-range of participants through sports like curling, ice skating and ice-hockey. Ice facilities also play a significant role in social integration, particularly at a time when Ireland is welcoming large numbers of people from countries where winter sports are integrated with their own cultural identity.

ICA President Eoin McCrossan said: “It cannot be understated how transformational creating a home for curling in Ireland would be. We believe our sport, with true inter-generational appeal, would be accepted in the hearts and minds of the Irish public given that chance. We are delighted to be working together with our fellow winter sports showing that collaboration and unity can create special results. 

“The backing from the World Curling Federation has been key to this point and their guidance support will be essential in any successful facility. The case we are putting forward has been made tangible by the feasibility study. It will provide jobs for Ireland, economic benefit and true social dividend. We are excited to see the next steps in this process ultimately ending with ice in Ireland!”

Scott Arnold, from the WCF added: “The World Curling Federation is happy to support our valued Member, the Irish Curling Association. They have accomplished so much without a dedicated ice rink, and we are encouraged by what we heard during the meetings here in Dublin this week. We have seen exponential growth from other WCF Member Associations upon the completion of their first dedicated ice rinks and would expect nothing less in Ireland. 

“The ICA’s dedication is inspirational, and we look forward to following their progress and continuing to help them achieve their goals.”

Peter Sherrard, the CEO of the Olympic Federation of Ireland commented: “The presentations by the Winter Sports and investors, underpinned by CHL’s feasibility study, show that we have a huge opportunity to create a National Winter Sports centre at little or no cost to the tax payer. Hundreds of new jobs will be created, Ireland will benefit from an investment of over €60m and our sports will at last have permanent facilities akin to almost every other country in the EU. “

We look forward to working with Government and local authority stakeholders to capitalise on this inward investment opportunity for our economy and our sports.”

In memory of Liz Knox

IRISH Curling has lost one of its foundation stones, with the passing of Liz Knox.

Liz (fourth left) at the birth of the ICA in December 1993

Liz, who died on the evening of Friday, June 24, at the age of 85, was part of the original group of curlers who initially formed the Northern Ireland Curling Association, after playing together at Gogar Ice Rink in December 1993, which grew into the all-Ireland organisation we know today.

It was just a couple of months ago she enjoyed a fabulous birthday party surrounded by her family and closest friends in the village of Gateside, where she had lived and held court with all who called, for over a decade.

There are so many wonderful attributes that were part and parcel of Liz, so we’ll list some of them in this tribute, beginning with her open-house hospitality.

If there was a competition on at nearby Greenacres, the Irish party was on at her house. Wherever the Four Nations was being held, the drinks were in Liz’s room. At the annual Stranraer weekend she was, for many, many years, at the heart of the social whirl there. Curling, chatting, drinking, laughing and of course, selling copious amounts of raffle tickets for ICA funds.

One shining example of her open-doors policy for anyone was the night the Irish teams heading to the Europeans in Switzerland in 2010 had their fights delayed. Left with the prospect of the cold airport floor for the night, Liz and her co-host and dear friend, Carolyn Hibberd, got a message out to the lost souls that the fire was roaring, the wine decanted, a brace of pheasants roasting away nicely and the beds warming at Rosedene.

With little notice the ‘Gateside Two’ had conjured up a feast fit for royalty and a memorable evening ensued with Liz the conductor of it all into the wee small hours of the morning.

We will also remember her immense kindness, her sense of fairness, her respect for tradition, the proper way of doing things and her stoicism and resilience whatever life threw at her.

She was proud of her international cap for Ireland when she played in the 2007 World Senior Championships in Edmonton, Alberta, when she travelled as the alternate in the late Fiona Turnbull’s team.

Liz forged great friendships with those ‘Irish girls’ over the years, with Carolyn of course, and also with Kathie Nixon and the late Isobel Fyfe and Fiona Turnbull. They enjoyed their annual lunch gatherings and with Liz in full flow the conversation was always sparkling. The lot of them could also make a fair ol’ dent in a bottle of ‘Isobel’s recipe’ which was not for anyone with a delicate digestive system.

We shall miss Liz Knox and her megawatt smile, her twinkling eyes and her voice. Oh, we shall miss her melodious, contralto voice, which always sounded like she had been gargling with teak oil.

Rest in peace Liz, you have enriched all our lives and will remain etched in our Irish hearts.

Carolyn knew Liz better than anyone and adds this personal tribute to her friend and fellow original ICA member:

“Gateside Village will be a lonelier place for many people with the
passing of Liz.

“For over forty years we have been friends and neighbours. Curling was
our glue, playing together with the local Ladies Club and in mixed
weekends with our husbands. Many social evenings were spent on the ice followed by some food, a few drams, lots of stories and laughter with
the neighbours. When the ICA began we both proudly became founder
members and that gave Liz wonderful new experiences and special
friendships.

“Liz was a gifted hostess, a splendid cook and an entertaining guest. The
family had a special way of bringing together friends with different
interests and hobbies and making everyone feel so much at ease and very
welcome.

“The Knoxs’ and their constant Labrador companions spent many happy
holidays in Orkney, and fishing, shooting and Pony Club were also much
enjoyed family activities. Liz was a constant valued supporter
throughout her beloved daughters Ailie and Lorna and granddaughters
Georgia and Thandi’s Pony Club days.

“After the passing of Hugh, Liz eventually moved from the family farm to
the heart of the village where she was surrounded by friends. She loved
her garden and spent many happy hours in her summer house. Even in her
last few weeks Liz hosted a splendid birthday party lunch and attended
the village Jubilee Picnic.  She never lost her zest for life.

“Liz will be very much missed by her family and by all whose lives she
touched.  We all feel sad now but we will remember the fun times. 
“That’s what Liz would want.”

50 CAPS FOR CLARE

CONGRATULATIONS to Clare McCormick who received her 50th cap for Ireland yesterday in the game against the newly-crowned senior world champions Switzerland.

Clare’s first game was in the C League with the Irish women’s team in 2014 in Zoetermeer against Slovakia.

WSCC – DAY 7

IRELAND’S senior women went out of the world championships in the play off game against Switzerland 8-5 yesterday morning after a great run in the competition.

World Senior Curling Championships 2022, Geneva, Switzerland
World Senior Curling Championships 2022, Geneva, Switzerland

They were in control of the game until the seventh end when the Swiss got stones behind cover and Irish skip Dale’s last stone, looking to lock the shot stone on the button to restrict the Swiss to a single, came up short. The Swiss then tried to draw for four but were happy to take three in a game that had been getting away from them.

World Senior Curling Championships 2022, Geneva, Switzerland

The Irish were confident of getting a one or a two at the last end and Dale had a short run back with her last stone on an excellent draw from Swiss skip Christina Lysander behind an Irish stone just outside the 12 foot. After taking a time out, the Irish elected the run back option, with the outside chance the Swiss shot stone could also be angled back on to the second Swiss stone in the back 12, leaving Ireland lying two for the win, but Dale’s stone didn’t draw quite enough and the Swiss took a two and were into the semi finals after scrapping for their lives on the ice in Geneva.

World Senior Curling Championships 2022, Geneva, Switzerland
World Senior Curling Championships 2022, Geneva, Switzerland
World Senior Curling Championships 2022, Geneva, Switzerland

So, it’s goodbye from the seniors and over to the young ones in green out in Lithuania for the C League.

WSCC DAY 6 – part two

THE last round-robin session tonight saw Ireland’s men go down 7-6 to the Czech Republic after a ding-dong battle. The defeat means the Irish can no longer progress to the knock-out stages, ten years after the epic victory in Taarby.

Ross Barr, Neil Fyfe, David Whyte, Bill Gray and Johnjo Kenny – photo credit WCF

The game didn’t get off to the best of starts with the loss of a three, but after exchanging singles, Ireland hit back with a three in the fourth end. It really should have been a four with JJ attempting to catch the edge of a stone out side the rings to shuffle a daisy chain of stones forward to get the last one in the rings and roll his stone over for the four but it just missed catching the edge of the stone and sailed into the rings for a three.

After losing a two, Ireland ramped up the pressure on their opponents and after taking a one, stone a one in the seventh end to level the scores.

In the last end they could not get hidden anywhere behind cover and with the clock down to eight seconds, Johnjo’s attempt and a hit and roll behind cover hit and rolled out it was alla over for 2022 in Geneva.

The Irish women play Switzerland at 1pm in the playoff game for the semi final with the winner meeting Scotland later in the day.

WSCC DAY 6

THE Irish senior women qualified out of group A in third place after beating the Czech Republic 8-4 in the early morning session here in Geneva.

A two and then a stolen two in the first two ends gave them a big advantage over their opponents and they cemented their superiority with a three in the fourth end. The second half of the game didn’t go to plan as the Czechs did have a double take out opportunity for a three in the seventh, but only got one. With a four shot cushion it was a case of clearing any opposition stones out until we ran the Czechs out of ammunition in the last end.

We will now head into the ice rink at 8pm tonight to watch the Irish men play the same country, with a qualification spot in their group at stake. Play offs are at 1pm tomorrow against…….who knows!

DAY 5 AT THE WSCC

THERE was an early start for the Irish women this morning against Italy but the team got a good start and took control of the game on the swingy ice to run out convincing winners.

The men’s team had a tougher time at noon when the faced Switzerland’s Christof Schwaller at noon losing 7-5.

World Senior Curling Championships 2022, Geneva, Switzerland
World Senior Curling Championships 2022, Geneva, Switzerland
World Senior Curling Championships 2022, Geneva, Switzerland

Here’s more photos of the teams from the excellent WCF galleries.

DAY 4 AT THE WSCC

IRELAND’S men had the only game of the day against Sweden and it was a brutal battering from the laser accuracy of Mats Wrana and his team.who won 10-3.

World Senior Curling Championships 2022, Geneva, Switzerland
World Senior Curling Championships 2022, Geneva, Switzerland
World Senior Curling Championships 2022, Geneva, Switzerland
World Senior Curling Championships 2022, Geneva, Switzerland
World Senior Curling Championships 2022, Geneva, Switzerland

Tomorrow the women face Italy at 8am and the men play Switzerland at noon.

DAY 3 – PART 2

THE Irish women took the reigning world champions, Sherry Anderson’s Canadian team, to the last stone in an epic game last night in the round robin here in Geneva. The Canadians got off to a good start with a two in the first end but Ireland came right back at them with a super three in the second, with Irish skip Dale making an angled runback onto the only Canadian stone in the house.

This game of strategy and shot-making continued right up to the eighth end when Dale tried to get a gourd on the first shot behind the tee. It just needed to curl up half a stone to be lined up in front but left Anderson with an angle on a tricky double take out and stick against four for the game, which, like the double world champion she is, she made.