After many nights training in difficult circumstances, fighting the midges at the foot of the Sperrin Mountains, the Bancran team headed off to The Netherlands and Assen to ply their wares on the European Championship stage. Their earlier success at the event in Perth Scotland where they had taken a very well deserved Gold medal in the 600 event and the close run thing in the 680 event, even though they were only just over 600kgs, had buoyed them for the intervening weeks and for the trip to Assen.

With their flights booked, the team arrived at Schipol airport on Tuesday afternoon and travelled up to Assen by train.  Once there, additional travel needs were attended to and off to the local Van Der Valk Hotel and an early night in bed!!  Scales were set to open on the Wednesday morning at 8am and it was an early start getting to the weigh in.  But of course they had to arrive early and were there by 7, but not first in the queue.

Everybody had made their weight and been given the individual weigh sheet, so again it was off for a good breakfast and rest up for the fray on Thursday afternoon.

17 teams entered and were divided into two groups as set out below

560MSenior Group: 1

A S400 Goiherri 558.00

B S403 Glenhill Ireland 555.55

C S406 Gonten Switzerland 559.15

D S408 Kinneff Scotland 558.20

E S409 Gaztedi A 551.20

F S412 De Spoortrekkers Netherlands 557.70

G S413 Lagerweij Netherlands 559.00

H S414 Streefkerk A Netherlands 543.90

I S416 Mertensmannen Belgium 548.16

560MSenior Group: 2

A S402 Bancran Northern Ireland 555.05

B S404 Vandakker Belgium 550.90

C S405 Sins Switzerland 558.85

D S407 Oele A Netherlands 558.95

E S410 Gaztedi B 557.20

F S411 Veenseboys A Netherlands 559.00

G S415 Eibergen Netherlands 549.65

H S417 Engelberg Switzerland 558.10

In group 1 Goherri came to the top of the group having won all of their pulls followed closely by Lagerweij who had dropped points against Goherri and Kineff in the round robin.  The longest pull of this round was between Goherri and Gaztedi A at 6.34 minutes.

In group two, Engelberg from Switzerland came to the top of the group in some style having dropped no points in the round robin. Neither did they have any cautions.  Bancran were equally impressive in their efforts only dropping points in the pull between themselves and Engelberg.

The longest pull in this section was between Bancran and Engelberg at 5.11 minutes in the first end and only 1.22 in the second end.  Cross over time and the teams finishing in first in one group crossed over to pull the second placed team in the opposing group, so Goiherri would take on Bancran whilst Engelberg would be opposed by Largerweij.

Engelberg took little time to dispose of Largerweij and destine them for the bronze pull off whilst the other semi final took on a longer feel with neither team giving anything in the process.  Engelberg could only be happy as the first end of the semi progressed over five, six and even seven minutes eventually ending in 9.34 minutes and going to Bancran.  Turn around and it was back into the battle again with neither giving anything away.  This time the local boys were more determined and assured of their fitness, taking an excellent second end in a time of 4.35 minutes, thus setting up a tremendous final against Engelberg.  First and second in group two back together again.

First up came the bronze pull off between Goiherri and Largerweij with the first end going to 4.29 and the second in 1.51 in favour of the Goiherri team.

Engelberg had looked strong in the group stages and again in the semi final but, the Bancran boys had no fear and were well a truly up for the final.  Unfortunately Engelberg had other ideas but had to take in excess of 3 minutes in each of the two ends to take to Gold and allow Bancran to claim the Silver.

This was some performance by the local boys who left everything they had on the field.  In the round robin stages they were cool , calm and collected and pulled like Trojans in the preliminaries.  Their session against Goiherri was a tough one but again they stuck well to their task. 

This was an excellent medal for Bancran and one which can now sit close by their recent Gold.  Well done to everyone in the team for their efforts and more especially to their dedication in training in very difficult circumstances.

Saturday wasn’t long in coming around and the Northern Ireland team represented by Bancran and strengthened by Eddie and Ian, made three changes weighing in just 1.2 kgs heavier than the first team for Thursday afternoon.  The group stages were all in one group with 9 teams entered as set out below;-

560MSenior Group: 1

A Switzerland 559.20

B Scotland 558.20

C Spain 558.15

D Netherlands 554.05

E Ireland 558.95

F Sweden 558.20

G Belgium 552.85

H Northern Ireland 556.35

I England 557.25

Top four teams to go through to the semi finals with 1 pulling 4 and 2 pulling 3. 

So it was down to the hard work again and the team from Northern Ireland started off in fine form against Belgium beating them in times of 42 seconds and 1.16 minutes to take their first points. England were their next opponents and this was a sterner affair but again the local team took both ends in 2 straight ends on 5.27 minutes each. Switzerland next up and another mighty tussel with both ends going to the Swiss in times of 6.23 and 2.28 minutes.

Sweden came up against Northern Ireland with the first pull lasting 6.26 and the second 3.39 minutes.  Three more points in the bag. The next end wasn’t going to be an easy affair as was proved when both teams took one point each in two very good pulls lasting 9.45 minutes and 1.17 minutes.

Scotland next and they had proved to be an effective team during the clubs event making a serious nuisance of themselves in each pull.  Northern Ireland stuck to their own game plan and again took three points in 2.08 and .36.  Spain and one of those pulls where nothing was going to be given easily by either team.  Three more points to Northern Ireland in times of 6.36 and 6.14 minutes.  Last of the round robin coming up and our near neighbours from Ireland were determined to finish on a high taking both ends in times of 2.42 minutes and .29 seconds.

So to the last four, Switzerland take first place having never dropped a point followed in second place by Northern Ireland, Spain in third place and the Netherlands coming in fourth place.  Same as before with 1 pulling 4 whilst 2 and 3 take on each other.

Semi finals were Switzerland and Netherlands with Spain and Northern Ireland destined to meet in the second semi final.  The first semi final was over in just over 5 minutes with both ends completed and Switzerland taking the first place in the Gold final.

The second semi was a totally different affair.  Spain and Northern Ireland went to their tasks and well after ten minutes with stalemate, the centre judge was directed to blow the end out, change to new ground close by the first part of the pull and carry on immediately. This had been a tense affair and in 16.49 minutes the end was completed and the point awarded to Spain.  It had been draining on both teams but after a rest it was change over time and back at it again, this time back in the old trigs. 

Another epic battle between two of the best teams in Europe.

9.15 minutes it took for Spain once again to take the necessary points and gain their place in the Final.  What an epic semi final, culminating after 25.64 minutes in two ends on the rope.  Northern Ireland and Spain were both drained after this semi and both teams still had their respective bronze and gold finals to pull off.  Switzerland and The Netherlands could be nothing else but happy at the outcome.

Northern Ireland met the Netherlands and in .31 and 1.54 were defeated for the bronze medal.

Big final to come but again the Swiss team proved to be that bit above the rest and took the Gold Medal in 2.42 and 2.54 minutes.

Many of us have been to the Championships in Northern Ireland this year as well as to the training facilities at the farm of Hugh Heron and Bancran.  The team, to a man, put in a tremendous effort during the last six or seven months and even more during July and August.  The midges are unbelievable once disturbed but yet and all, the boys persevered and stuck tight and heavy to their task and their wish to compete at the highest level.  Something which they have achieved.

Bancran and the families of every man involved in the team can be proud but every puller and supporter of tug of war throughout Northern Ireland can be justly proud of the achievements of this team.

Tomorrow is another day and I have no doubt that the boys are all determined to have another go and to prove once again that they can all punch well above their weight.  Well done boys.

Any available photographs can be posted via face book and then we can link them across.



Written by:  - 28 Sep, 2013