THE IRISH CURLING ASSOCIATION are set to host a promotional, interactive two-day event in Tallaght, in an attempt to promote the game more broadly in Ireland.
The event will be hosted at Shamrock Rovers’ Tallaght Stadium on Wednesday January 16th and Thursday January 17th next.
The introductory event is designed both to promote their sport through giving people an opportunity to try it out, and to press the case for Dublin to develop a permanent ice rink and enable more local participation.
The campaign for a permanent Irish ice rink is one that’s been ongoing for some time.
This drive is in particular happening through the surprising number of local ice hockey teams that manage to get by – largely by traveling to Belfast in the off-season – without one.
The curlers have achieved surprising success whilst largely based in Scotland, including senior European gold and bronze medals in 2012 and 2016.
Thus they are keen to ensure they’d be included in any future developments.
“As an association for 25 years now, our main aim is to get ice in Ireland,” member of that medaling senior team David Whyte explains.
“Curling gets a big Olympic profile every four years, and our world federation is a global organisation that is working hard to expand the sport.
“It is biggest in Canada, and they’re really helping with funding. That’s what’s behind this ‘Olympic Celebration’ event.
“People get quite excited about it when they see the pros, and some of the shots they can play, what’s possible.”
Curling, Whyte explains, has “elements of chess and of golf. It’s for people who like a combination of a team sport with some exercise, a physical challenge and some strategy.”
The large stones, thrown towards a target along a sheet of ice, curve according to a player’s rotation of the handle used to launch them, and have their post-throw movement altered by teammates sweeping – or abstaining from sweeping – the ice before them as they move.
“We are sending two Olympians to Dublin to talk to and play the sport with kids at schools,” Whyte says.
“Also to talk about what it’s like to go to the Olympics, and to play curling,
“We’ll be doing demonstrations to the public too, with our coaches, giving people a go and teaching people how to deliver a stone towards a target, and take out another stone.
“Then we will go for a drink and a chat afterwards, and give everyone a chance to talk to the Olympians.
“It is a chance to put the sport on the radar a little bit more, and we hope people will come down and give things a go.”
The events in schools will be based on what’s known as ‘slow curling’, which doesn’t require ice.
“It is only a vague approximation of the real version, but also serves to illustrate the reality for Irish hurling, something that means the association is effectively based abroad.
“Right now, the Ireland team all live in Scotland, where the game is fairly well subscribed,” Whyte continues.
“We all compete as part of different teams, but we do get the chance to practise together as Ireland, too.
“We’d like to see the game included in any plans for a permanent ice in Ireland, and to get a chance to talk to councillors, to Sports Ireland and anyone else who’s interested. It’s about awareness, basically.
“We think there’s a great opportunity for public participation, and the game might really strike a chord.”