Three days is a long time in curling!! The Senior Men joined battle with Japan on Tuesday night in a significant game with qualification in mind. Right from the outset, the guys were a bit cagey and not quite hitting their straps and a tight game resulted which was not really what the doctor ordered. The scores remained close but could have been so much different had a hit by Skip Bill in the 2nd end not chipped a Japanese stone into shot position where a hit and stick would have left Ireland lying 4 or 5 putting pressure on Fujisawa-san.
(Yep his younger daughter is Satsuki Fujisawa who skipped the Japanese women to Bronze in the 2018 Olympics).Ultimately Ireland needed a steal in the last to keep the game alive but Bill’s last draw just came up short and gave the opposition a hit to clear the irish counter to leave him with a single shot to win. Definitely a game to forget for the Irish.
GAME 5 ENGLAND 1 – 11 IRELAND
The Senior boys were back on the tricky and slow sheet G again the next day, taking on England. This was a much more promising effort with Ireland moving into a 5 shot lead in the first end and controlling the game all the way to the 7th when England conceded. The real drama at this point however was the Last Stone Draw and associated Draw Shot Challenge as with Japan having beaten Ireland and Poland beating Japan, if Ireland managed to beat Poland then Draw Shot could determine qualification. A nervy LSD by Bill and David resulted in our overall DSC being top of their group, just 2cm ahead of Poland so moving into the final RR game against Poland, it was to be a straight shootout for qualification.
GAME 6 IRELAND 4 – 7 POLAND
In a nutshell this was comfortably the most disappointing defeat in the recent team’s history – probably out ranking the disappointment of not beating Russia last year in Ostersund at the same stage. What made it worse was that the team played exceptionally well for 6 ends with total control and pressurised their Polish opponents in every end, leading 4-2 after the 6th. Then disaster struck in the 7th end. A series of missed shots or poor results from shots along with one poor tactical call resulted in Poland lying 4 when Bill came to play his first skip stone. A heavy multiple take out was called and executed well but only resulted in one Polish counter exiting the house and the others being spread around – lying three. The Polish skip played a draw to the back 4 to lie 4 and Bill was left to try and cover that stone and hope that it wouldn’t be able to be struck out. His draw was fractionally heavy and missed the break point which resulted in it taking a different path to similar shots which had been played well all game. The stone agonisingly slipped past the back 4 stone and gave the Polish skip an open draw for a 5, which he made. Ireland were now 7-4 down in the last and tried hard to manufacture a three but some strong hitting (and a couple of fortunate ones at that) by the Poles ran the boys out of stones. The dream was over for yet another year but this time it seemed so much more deflating coughing up a big end when they had been in control.
Poland have made great strides in the past couple of years and it was good to have a chat with them afterwards as their association with our great friend Tony Tierney who coached Agnieska (the Polish coach) and also with Gordon McIntyre who had coached some of the Polish Senior team as well as Ireland seniors over the years.
Reflecting on the week, Skip Bill said, ” As ever it has been a privilege to represent Ireland at a World competition and I am proud to be part of this band of brothers and we should be similarly proud of our efforts this week. Ultimately, I think we lacked some of the consistency we have had in previous campaigns and made a few too many errors at crucial times – something you can’t afford to do at this level if you want to progress, particularly as the standard at seniors is still increasing at the top end. Despite all of that, we’ve had a blast – made more new curling friends – had a barrel load of laughs at various times and seen some amazing scenery in and around Stavanger. We are now officially broke however!!. Onwards and upwards.”
Ireland’s mixed doubles team, John Wilson and Louise Kerr, finished their world championships outing on a high with a win in their final game against Qatar.
Having just won the draw shot challenge, the Irish team secured a one at the first end and gave up a one at the second.
Taking their powerplay in the third, accurate hitting from John, including a double take out left them in a good position. Qatar’s Mabarak Al- Abdulla drew into the open house for shot but a hit and roll out gave Ireland a big three.
Ireland stole in the fourth end and piled the pressure on in the next end with great draws followed by good, well placed guards. When the Qatar last stone got caught on frosty ice at the side of the sheet it was four shots to Ireland.
The team then gave the opposition a one in the sixth end.
In the seventh end, Qatar got a good last stone at the back of the button, but John Wilson drew to the four foot a foot in front of it. Ireland’s attempted tap-back for two clipped a front stone to give up another steal.
The Qatar team shook hands at this point and Ireland had a second win. The teams statistics were also good, boosting their overall percentages for the competition!
This will be the last year that Ireland automatically qualify for the world championships. Next season, the top 16 from this competition will go straight to the worlds, but other countries will have to play a qualifying competition where the top four will qualify for the world championships.
Ireland lost their penultimate game at the world mixed doubles championships here in Norway, mainly due to a poor last stone at the first end when I was too light with a stone in an attempt to get into a cluster of New Zealand shots.
But we plugged away and got a mini-break in the seventh end with the Kiwis’ power play backfired on them. We were both making the shots called by this time in the game which is always a confidence booster.
We really enjoyed the game with good shots from all four players and after wards we decamped to the bar for a beer. We will bow out tomorrow morning when we play Qutar at 9am.
Ireland’s good friend Adrian Meikle played his 300th game for Wales last night in Stavanger in the World men’s seniors against Finland.
Unfortunately, although it went down to the last stone it was not a win for Wales. Nevertheless, Adrian’s teammates and their coach, his partner Dawn, amde sure it was a night to remember with a cake back at the hotel bar.
Over the years, Adrian has played in the Men’s World Championships, the European Championships in the A,B and C Divisions, the World Mixed, the European Mixed, the World Mixed Doubles and finally, the World Men’s Seniors.
Well done to Adrian from all the members of the ICA!
It was finally a win tonight for Ireland’s mixed doubles team, John Wilson and Louise Kerr who comfortably beat the husband and wife team, Suleiman and Karrie Alaqel.
Suleiman and Karrie, who is originally form Montana, USA, only started curling a few months ago, and coached by Alastair Fyfe (our Neil’s brother) have turned out to represent their country, a country where curling is in it’s infancy, and have made a lot of friends in the process.
A four taken in a third end power play set the Irish team on the road to victory, with accurate takeouts from John. After that end we concentrated on drawing to the four foot, which worked out well.
Tomorrow we face New Zealand and another pair of ace curlers who are also the friendly face of curling – Sean and Bridget Becker.
While Mark Twain memorably said that ‘golf was a good walk spoiled’, we could butcher that phrase to ‘Today was a good day spoiled!’
The Team set off on a marvellous fjord cruise which included viewing Pulpit Rock some 600 metres above the fjord. A most impressive sight even from the safety of the boat – some of our intrepid colleagues are threatening to go and view it from the top……A fantastic trip.
The reality however was that the real business was a game against Stefan Karnusian’s Swiss team at 8pm. A good draw shot achieved the hammer for the third game running and the early scoring of singles in the first three ends highlighted the closeness of the game, although Bill had to draw against three in the first to get the 1 point. Ireland’s 4th end malaise appeared for the 2nd game running when the team got themselves into trouble as a result of a couple of near perfect corner freezes which either came up fractionally short or agonisingly rubbed guards. The net result was a score of three to Switzerland to take a 4-2 lead at the halfway point. The trend of just being on the wrong side of perfect continued into the 5th end where Bill’s nose hit attempt for 1 just rolled past the 2nd Swiss counter to allow a steal of 1 (the first steal the team had given in the competition so far). The 6th end was similar with the Swiss getting their stones into better positions than Ireland and a nose hit double for a single was all that they could muster. Going down the 7th 3-5 down required some gambling and despite a couple of loose shots, there was a possibility of creating something with the skippers last to pick out a stone near the button but yet again, millimetres of margin meant that the Swiss skip had a straightforward draw for his three and the boys conceded. A good day slightly spoiled by the result – the Swiss team played exceptionally well and Ireland struggled to impose themselves. Qualification from the group is still on but it will need to be wins from here on in against sides that will no doubt be improving. Next up Japan at 8pm Norge time Tuesday.
It was tough going again for the Irish mixed doubles team of John Wilson and Louise Kerr here in Norway losing to the Korean team by another bucketload of shots.
The last stone draw didn’t go to plan but we picked up a one when the Koreans’ last stone clipped a guard. In the second end we drew shot stone with our last but Hyeri Jang got round the guard and to the inside edge to move it enough to pick up a four.
We then lost five shots against the head in the next two ends, but managed to pick up another single in the fifth end with a power play. But the more accurate Koreans took a three and a single in the sixth and seventh ends.
It’s safe to say that this game had it all! Good shot making, burnt stone, pickups and sportsmanship. The early ends saw singles traded until the 4th where a series of loose shots by Team Ireland gave the Scots the upper hand lying three. When Scotland burnt a takeout stone the initiative swung back in Ireland’s favour but a miss by the skipper let them back in and a score of three ensued.
A well taken two by Ireland in the 5th tied the scores at 4-4 – where they stayed as the following two ends were blanked. Going up the last without hammer, Ireland got a few guards out front and were handily placed. Scotland played a hit and in the process accidentally kicked a stone in behind the remaining front guard. A request to replace the stone to where it would have ended up was sportingly accepted by Bill and left Ireland lying two but now with one in the open on the 8ft. Bill’s first shot – a planned guard picked up out of his hand and came to nothing and after Dave Smith the Scottish skip played a hit and roll which rolled out from behind the guard, the last Irish stone nosed the Scottish counter on the 4ft leaving the same shot for the Scots who made no mistake for a 1 point win.
A tough defeat but a good tight game which should set the boys up well for the coming games.Next up Suisse – at 8pm Norge time Monday.
Ireland’s mixed doubles team went down in seven ends to the Kazakhstan duo who outplayed Ireland, clocking up a three and then a four in the last two ends.
Kazakhstan started the game with a big three but Ireland got a three back in the second end. Kazakhstan then stole singles in the next two ends before Ireland got a one back. It should have been a two but my stone, drawing the four foot was a foot short.
The Kazakhstanis then opted for a power play which they played very well. With Ireland’s last stone I drew shot stone half hidden behind a couple of stones just high of the house, but Alliyarova chipped it out for the three.
The game was sliding away from Ireland and the opposition drew in behind the centre guard and attempted taps by Ireland just locked the Kazak stone in a cluster which we could not shift.
Ireland play Korea tomorrow morning and England at night.