Nine team took part in the men’s 680kg championship this morning as the European closed championship kicked off. Ireland pulled well in this competition but were made to work hard against many of the teams. The Irish lost one end to Netherlands and an end to Sweden in finishing second place. In the semi finals they faced the Netherlands in a grueling contest. Ireland lost a meter of rope in the first end but defended very well to break down the Dutch and go on to take the pull. The second end was also hard fought and the lads showed sheer determination to finish off the Dutch team in a real battle. In the final, Ireland faced a Swedish team who had not really been tested all day. There was a great atmosphere in the stadium and a huge Irish support. The power of the Swedish team could not be stopped in the first end as they went on to win the pull. The Irish defending tactics kicked in in the second end as they wore down the fierce Swedish power as a number of their pullers began to crack and pick up cautions for propping and locking. They were eventually disqualified to a huge cheer from the crowd. The winning of the toss raised another great cheer as the Irish won choice of ground. The same tactics also worked in the deciding end as great defending and good refereeing saw Sweden pick up another three cautions as the crafty Irish team retained the 680kg title they won in Holland two years ago. The winning Irish team was Eugene Neary, Joey Kehoe, Gerard Ferguson, Connell Ward, Tom Kilbride, Robert Kehoe, James Kehoe, Sean Roberts & Laurence Kehoe.
The Irish ladies team made their long anticipated return to International action in the 560kg competition in the afternoon. The girls pulled a good rope and defended well putting up a great fight against all the top teams. They pulled very well against Belgium in the penultimate contest winning in straight ends encouraged by their huge support. The last pull against Wales was a tough contest as the Irish pulled well and showed great determination to bring the resilient Welsh team across the line. They also fought hard in the second but the Welsh ensured the spoils were shared. Nonetheless it was a good performance by the girls on their International debut picking up 4 points. Sweden won the gold medal defeating the Netherlands in the final. The men’s 560kg team also pulled well to qualify for the semi finals along with England, Switzerland and Sweden. England, represented by Norton were very strong and easily overcame the Irish in the first end of the semi final. Ireland performed better in the second end but it was the English who progressed. This left Ireland in a bronze pull-off for third place against Switzerland. The first end was a good struggle as Ireland won rope but didn’t have the power to take a step after the heave as the Swiss defended well. The Swiss went on to win the end and also added the second end to win the bronze medal. England were very impressive defeating Sweden in straights ends to win gold.