On Wednesday afternoon 11th February 2015 members of the Northern Ireland Tug of War Association gathered with their event partners at the Ramada Plaza Hotel at Shaws Bridge to launch the forthcoming Championships.
The Secretary on behalf of the Chairman thanked everyone for attending and went on to introduce our partners to those present. Members of the Association teams from Bancran in Draperstown, Richhill and Ballyhegan in Co Armagh, Derryogue from Kilkeel and the Garvagh and Aghadowey teams from Coleraine were all in attendance.
We were also very happy to welcome Dame Mary Peters, Mr Cathal McKeever President of the Tug of War International Federation, Mr Rajesh Rana Director of Andras Group and Mr Johnny Davis Legacy Advisor to DCAL Minister.
Our Partners in this venture from Ramada Plaza Hotel, YMCA, Stranmillis College, Queens Elms, Carnroe Supplies, Knock Travel, Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster, Volunteer Now and BESPOKE Northern Ireland were all present. Special mention is also required for Ms Beth Healy her boss Mr Conal Heatley Executive officer, Beth is currently on placement at the Commonwealth Games Council from the Ulster University and is working as a Capacity Support Of
50 years ago, in 1965, the first European Championships were held at Crystal Palace in London.
Northern Ireland had a team in the 720kgs class being represented by the famous Aghadowey team. That team had travelled with high hopes of winning the Euoprean Championships but had to settle for silver medal behind the great England team, Bosley Wood Treatment from Cheshire who went on to be recorded in the Guiness book of records as having never lost an end of tug of war in 13 years.
Since then Northern Ireland have won the European 640kgs Championships, again at Crystal Palace, UK indoor and outdoor Championships on several occasions and the World Indoor Club and International Championships for the past eight years.
50 years on we are hosting, for the first time, The Junior World and 50th Anniversary Championships from the 3rd to the 6th September.
Back in May 2012 we made our bid to host these Championships in Belfast and you can now see, that bid was successful. A lot of hard work has already gone into the planning and arrangements with our partners, for this event with quite some work still to be done.
Although a relatively small Association, we are one of the oldest members of The Tug of War International Federation.
A former Chairman of this Association, the late John Shepperd was Treasurer of TWIF for a number of years. Now, as an Association we are justifiably proud that Mr Cathal McKeever from Loughgall is the President of The Tug of War Federation.
Mr McKeever spoke of his great enjoyment in sport and especially the sport of Tug of War. He also said that he was proud of the achievements of the local Association and the work that they were doing. Many of the pullers present had travelled widely and had been very successful, especially at the lighter weights, in their chosen sport. UK, European and World medals had been the prizes won over many years.
Cathal has been involved in the sport for over 50 years. He was a puller with the Ballyhegan Club and has attended apart from one when he was unwell, every World and European Championship and has taken representative teams from Northern Ireland to South Africa, Germany, Australia, USA, Japan, Chinese Taipei, China to name but a few.
The venue for these Championships is the YMCA grounds at Lagan Meadows and we as an Association are deeply indebted to Howard and his staff for the use of this excellent facility. We look forward to working together in the coming months.
Stranmillis College will be our centre for administration of the event and again we look forward to our continued working with Christine and her staff on this important part of the event.
Queens Elms, Premier Inn Express, Ibis Queens, Days Hotel will also play host to many of our visitors. The YFCU, YMCA and Volunteer Now have been enlisted and will help in the run up to and during this major event.
A special mention has to be made to Rajesh and his team here at the Ramada Plaza Shaws Bridge. This will be the Federation HQ for the event.
We are hoping for 1200 to 1500 athletes along with many visitors and friends to this our first venture into a major International Tug of War event.
We look forward to welcoming our Tug of War family to Northern Ireland and to sample the hospitality of this great city of Belfast.
We all hope that come the evening of 6th September our Association, this City and Northern Ireland will be able to look back and say that we are proud to have hosted a most enjoyable, friendly and successful Championship in Belfast.
Thank you all for your attendance here today and we look forward to working together over the coming months and during the Championships in September.