Irish men take World Seniors Curling title

Updated: April 23, 2012

A great day for Irish curling as the senior men’s team struck Gold in the World Seniors Championship in Taarnby, near Copenhagen.

Saturday, was finals day and who, before the tournament, would have believed that Ireland would win the title? Who indeed , but win they did against the mighty Canadians . It was a richly deserved reward for the years of fighting against all the odds in a sport where the Irish team has no permanent facilities at home and have to play their ‘home’ games in Scotland.

Jonjo Kenny, Bill Gray, David Whyte , Tony Tierney and David Hume were the heroes that brought the title to Ireland amid joyous scenes at the Taarnby Curling Club. The 8th end was crucial as Johnjo Kenny was forced to draw for one to level the scores at 5-5, albeit Ireland had led 4-1. So an extra end was required and in truth the title seemed destined for Canada until the last Irish shot when Kenny again played a major part in the destination of the trophy.

It had been a great week for the Irish squad , (sponsored by Albert Bartlett) , even before that final as one of curling’s smallest nations had already come through Group B with victories over Russia 7-5, USA 7-3, Switzerland 5-3, Slovakia 8-3, Latvia 6-5 and Finland 5-4.

After winning the gold medal, a delighted Ireland skip, John Jo Kenny, said: “Scrape me off the ceiling! I feel unbelievable. It didn’t look good out there for a long time. I went through a bad patch but the team hung in until the end and we persevered.

“What can I say, it’s a great moment. A country of a million curlers against a country of 52 curlers – but on the ice it’s four against four. We came here hoping to win four games and we’re unbeaten. Hopefully it gives us some support and some exposure in Ireland. We’re hoping to get a rink in Dublin this year and hopefully this will be the catalyst that we need to get some coverage over there.

‘Galloway Gazette’ journalist Louise Kerr is herself a member of the Irish Women’s team, and a regular contributor to the Irish Curling Association’s website blog . Louise penned this report on one of Ireland’s finest wins in the competition, against Norway in Friday’s semi-final :

“IRELAND 5 NORWAY 4 – after an Extra End

“In what was a world class semi-final the Irish men’s seniors team – Johnjo Kenny, Bill Gray, David Whyte, Tony Tierney and fifth man David Hume beat the legend that is three-time world curling champion Eigel Ramsjfell and his Norwegian team at an extra end to go through to the world senior curling championship final against Canada.

With the hammer in the extra end, Irish skip Johnjo Kenny, who has been immense all week, held his nerve to nail his last take out – surely the most important shot of his long curling career.
The game in the first half was a case of draw hit, draw, hit, hit, hit, draw. Ramsjfell must have though he was playing the world semi in 1984 again. But a rare mistake from Johnjo at the fifth end, when he freshed a takeout, opened the door for the Norwegian skip to draw for two.
In the sixth end with the score at 1-3, Johnjo played a great runback with his first stone to lie two. Norway hit but rolled into open and ‘The Big Man’ hit for a two. 3-3

The seventh end was the killer punch from the Irish. It was not looking good for the team as the Norwegians were lying two tucked nicely in behind cover. But, Irish third Bill Gray played the shot of his life when played a fantastic across the house double to take out two Norwegian stones and lie shot behind the front guards. Norway attempted to angle a front stone onto the shot at back-ring weight but got it too thin and it rolled over the top. Ramsjfell drew second shot but Johnjo guarded and snuffed out the raise leaving the Norwegian with no shot at all. A steal of one took the score to 4-3.

Norway took their one at the last end when Ramsjfell drew the button and this enthralling semi moved into the extra end.
All the team played their part in keeping the four foot clear for their skip, but Bill Gray’s second peel just clipped an Irish stone five feet outside the house and moved it to about a foot to the right of the centre line. Norway pounced. The tried to draw behind but each time left the hit on. Ramsjfell drew, Johnjo, taking about 18 inches of ice played a hack weight hit and stick, Ramsjfell did the same.

Silence fell in the Taarnby curling rink as Johnjo sat down in the hack. He took the same ice, played the same weight, the sweepers and Bill in the head judged it to perfection. It sailed past the guard by about an inch but it seems to take an eternity after that before it hit the Norwegian shot and stuck for the match winner.

Afterwards Johnjo said: ‘I didn’t want to take too much time to think about it! I just played it.’

Irish Curling Association President Bill Gray, the team’s third player said then : ‘You can’t imagine how we feel at the minute. To be coming home with nothing less than a silver medal is one thing, but, to make the final, curling the way we did in this game is a fantastic achievement. We couldn’t have done it without all the support from here and at home. Come on Ireland!’ “

That was then and this is now – and now Bill Gray, Johnjo Kenny and colleagues are coming home , not with silver but with Gold and with the World Seniors title. Great days indeed for Irish curling.

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