Tuesday afternoon last week saw the start of the World Indoor Championships in the facilities of the beautiful Breefy House and the attached sports complex at Castlebar in Co Mayo. Dan McCarthy and his team of willing conscripts had all the hard preparation work done during the previous three years and the arena was starting to look good for the opening.  Test scales were already available and in place and some were making early use of them.  Flags, mats, markers etc still had to go out but everything that was needed was already sitting on site.

The office was up and going ready for the influx of athletes some of whom had already arrived whilst others wouldn’t arrive until later in the week.  700 had been accredited and all of the hard work done in the office was now paying off.

136 teams, from 13 countries, in four days of competition in 16 competitions.  That was the numbers being confronted at the start of the World Indoor Championships in Castlebar.  Hotel facilities were excellent with accommodation on site for up to 900 people.  Not everyone stayed in the hotel with the local town hosting a number of teams in hotels and rented housing. 

The early indications pointed towards a really successful event.

Wednesday morning came around and the sighs of relief for many were being looked forward to as the dieting and lack of liquid could then come to an end, for now.  Scales were set up in the hall for testing and the officials scales were opened in time for the first athletes to be weighed, many of whom were there well before the official opening at 8am.  Some still needed to reduce their weight and with the hotel sauna in full swing, sweat suits, running etc many more kilos were shed in a short time to meet the deadline at 1030am. 

The weigh master got things going at a steady pace and by shortly after 9am almost three hundred pullers had been weighed in and checked through the computer system.  It was going to be 4pm before the scales were being opened again for two hours and those that had missed the morning session would have to endure the hunger and thirst a little longer.

Wednesday night came on with a rush and the arena works team got down to business to finish setting the mats, checking the ropes, decorating the large arena and ensuring we were going to be ready for Thursday morning.  Club competition briefing and the judges briefing was scheduled for Wednesday at 9pm and once again there was great anticipation of the clubs competition over the following two days with coaches and pullers crammed into the briefing room.

Briefing over, arena checked and an early night beckoned for many so as to be ready for the fray on Thursday morning.  18 judges, 8 recorders and up to 10 marshals from around the world would officiate and everyone got down to their job to ensure we started on time

Coaches were entitled to make changes up to half an hour before stamping began at 0730 and the weigh master James Ward and his team of judges did an excellent job getting all of the teams stamped before half past eight and ready for the competition to commence at 930am.

Thursdays schedule included M560, W540, MU23 600, M640 with the mens 560kgs event the first to take to the mats.  12 teams in two groups would fight it out for the top two places in each group to reach the semi finals.  Nothing soft here with each team giving their all in pursuit of those coveted places. Abadino, Richhill, Ballyhegan, Carndonagh, Nan Tou, and Mountain View were in group one whilst Napurrak, Country Club, Ayrshire,Rockies, Cockhill and An Steel would bring in group two.

Group one round robin results saw Abadine and Nan Tou come to the top whilst group two saw Country Club and Cockhill take their places in the semi final positions.  In group one the two longest pulls of the group were between Nan Tou and Abadino at 4.33 and 5.31 minutes with Abadino taking both ends and finishing top.  In group two the two longest pulls was between An Steel and Napurrak at 3.55 and 4.02 minutes with neither making the semi finals.

One pulls two from the opposing groups so Abadino were destined to meet Cockhill whilst NanTou would take on Country Club.  Abadino disposed of Cockhill whilst Country Club had the same effect on their opponents from Nan Tou.

Bronze between Nan Tou and Cockhill this time with Nan Tou from Chinese Taipei taking the honours and bronze medal.

Country Club were next up in the final with Abadino, taking both straight ends in 1.56 and 1.17 minutes and the title of World Indoor Club Champions for the second time.

9 teams were scheduled for the W540 with almost half of them not being up close on the weight.  One league on 9 teams with everyone pulling everyone in the round robin, this time to find the top four teams in the group for the semi finals.  An Steel from China,would meet Disa Ladies from South Africa whilst Jing Mei from Chinese Taipei would meet Gaztedi from the Basque country.  The far Eastern nations were very strong with some of those representing Jing Mei still college students.  This  was destined to be the top two teams going towards the final whilst Disa Ladies would meet Gaztedi for the Bronze medal.

No straight ends win in this one with it taking the third pull to separate the two and give the bronze to Gaztedi in times of 1.53, 1.57 and 1.31.

An steel and Jing Mei were then taken to the rope by our Judge Mr Rosa from Germany.  This proved to be a great final with neither team giving or expecting anything.  Two total power house teams fought it out before the Gold medal went in times of 3.41 and 2.58 to the ladies from An Steel. 

After lunch  It was the turn of the men’s 640 and the Men’s U23 600.  The 640 had attracted 14 teams from different parts of the globe. 

This had to be divided into two groups with group one consisting of Clonmay B (Donegal), Lubrensis (Italy), Inchnapoagh (Ireland), Mureta (Basque), Monnickendam B (Netherlands),  Streamstown (Ireland) and Ma Steel (China).

Group 2 was Ibarra (Basque), Cobra (Italy), Napurrak (France), Monnickendam (Netherlands), Ayrshire (Scotland), Cuan Rithe (Ireland) and Mountain View (Ireland).  Two places in each group up for grabs and it was game on again in each group.

In group one Clonmay B looked good from very early on and so this proved at the end with them taking the top spot in group one closely followed by an emerging team from Lubrensis (Italy).  Scotland team from Ayrshire took to spot in the second group closely followed by Monnickendam from the Netherlands.

Cross over done and both Ayrshire and Clonmany B went through to the finals in fine style, disposing of ther opposition on each occasion in less than a minute.  Final decided now it was down to the bronze pull off under the watchful eye of Mikel Azarola.  Again no quarter given but once on the mat and the hands being dropped by the judge, Ayrshire went straight for the jugular taking both ends in short time and with it the Gold medal for clubs at 640kgs.

Much to everyone’s disappointment there were few U23 600 teams but a competition was held with all of those present being impressed by those that took part, plying their trade equally as well as some of the senior teams.  The most impressive thing to me was the anchor men who had no need of all the padding that many of their seniors had on.  Good clean pulling by all.  Well done.

Rest time and the first day was over.  Time for a rest.

Friday morning came around early and once again teams were lining up from half past seven to be stamped.  The same could be said of the restaurant where there wer large crowds lining up to get breakfast which was sumptuous with cereals, fruit, traditional fare, porridge, toast team and coffee.  Hmmmmmmm!

600 mens was first up and the entry proved to have a big number again with 10 teams lined up in group one and 9 in group two.  Round Robin again where everyone pulls everyone else to gain those two top spots.  This was going to be a tough test.

And so it proved with Abadino and Cockhill taking first and second in the first group and Country Club and Clonmany B taking the second slot.  Cross over time again in the semi finals and Abadino would meet Clonmany B whilst Country Club was destined to meet the local rivals from Cockhill.  The longest end was between Country Club and Cockhill at 55 seconds with Country Club and Clonmany B destined for the final.

Bronze medal first and Cockhill disposed of Abadino in 1.04 and .30 seconds to take the bronze medal.  The final was going to be another proper dig dong with the two local rivals pitting themselves against one another in front of a very packed hall, this time being won by an impressive Clonmany B team that had gradually improved at the competition went on.  Gold to Clonmany B and Silver to Country Club.

In the ladies 500 which started a short time after the M600, it was pleasing to welcome for the first time at a major event, the team from Singapore alongside another six ladies teams from various countries and continents.  Top four when there is only one group and again everyone would be fighting for those four places with everything they had.Jing Mei from Chinese Taipei who had been recent visitors to the Donegal village of Clonmany, were impressive from the off and at the end of the round robin they proved their worth by taking top spot, having never been beaten in the round robin.  Gaztedi followed close behind having lost only one pull to Jing Mei with Ibarra and Badiotz in third and fourth place.

One pulls four whilst twio and three battle it out for the second place in the finals, so Jing Mei and Badiotz were in the first semi final whilst Gaztedi took on their country women from Ibarra.  One and two proved their worth again and Jing Mei and Gaztedi filled the final places whilst Ibarra and Badiotz would face each other in the bronze pull off.

The bronze proved a great struggle for both teams with nothing given or expected on the mat for 2.55 and 2.43 minutes before the team from Ibarra took the Bronze medal.  Final time again and Jing Mei come out against the great team from Gaztedi.

Pete Lourens from South Africa was to be the centre judge officiating in the final this time.  Jing Mei had looked impressive early on in the competition and once again they proved their worth against a very strong opposing team from Gaztedi by taking the World Club Ladies 500kgs title in 1.45 and 1.25 minutes.

Last of the mens club weights coming up, it was time for the 680kgs with 9 teams in one group.  4 countries were represented with some of the team only weighing a little over the 640 kgs mark, which is far too much to give away at this level of competition, especially where the opposing teams are well up on their weights.  Fitness and stamina counts.  Round robin time again and only four places to fill within the group.

Dutch and Irish teams were destined in this case to fill the top four places with It Heidenskip taking top spot, closely followed by Mountain View, Monnickendam and Cockhill.  One pulls four and two pulls three for the final.  Bronze was between Monnickendam and Cockhill with Cockhill finishing in fourth place.

Mountain View had shown some improvement during afternoon although the coach at one time was showing signs of the stresses and strains of the competition.  But that soon changed when his team came back to the mat against It Heidenskip.  He soon whipped them into a fine lather and took the Gold medal in .54 and .37 seconds in front of a very appreciative crowd and the centre judge Juan Ranero.

Last of the afternoon was to be the 600kgs mixed event with four ladies and four men on each team weighing to a maximum of 600kgs.  This time 10 teams were entered in one group with Chinese Taipei, Singapore and China added to the previous mix of teams.  Four top spots was the target for everyone and again it was great to see the team from Singapore taking on the more experienced teams.

3.23 was the longest pull of the round robin with the teams from An Steel and Jing Mei being in the tussel.  Both of these teams finished up in first and second plane, closely followed by Gaztedi again and the team from Monnickendam.

Following on from the two semi finals, An Steel and Jing Mei went forward to the final whilst Monnickendam and Gaztedi had to battle it out for the bronze medal.  This time the bronze medal went to the later, Gaztedi.

The final was going to be a great spectacle for the teams watching amongst all of these packed into the large hall, and no one was going to be let down.  If you remember earlier I said that many from Jing Mei are still college students and what a performance they and their rivals put on.  This was indeed a scorcher which was eventually won by a very tall and strong team from An Steel.  Great result.

The other competition of the day was for the JM560 where once again few teams were entered.  Not to be out done by any of their senior and in many cases very senior teams, the boys put on a great show.  Final time was given its just position for the two finalists who put on a great show, many of them in from of friends and family.  Again I must pay tribute to all of the young pullers who had trained hard for this event.  Unfortunately they hadn’t many rivals.  Not to be outdone, no gave or expected anything from one another.  Although medals were handed out to the teams, they were all winners not only for themselves and their parents and friends, but also for Tug of War.

It is not fair singling out anyone in particular as they are all winners, but I need to pay tribute to the two “dull” men at the back of each team.  Many of the more senior pullers need to take cognisance of these young men, the correct position they kept the rope and their style in this position.  Enough said.  This was a late finish and everthing that had been planned had to be put back accordingly.

Friday night is the official opening for the Closed Championships and preparation of the hall began immediately the last competitors had left the hall.  One mat less, more chairs, change of lay out and a VIP visitor was to be the order of the day.  But evening meal beckoned first followed by a change of clothing and the preparation for the opening ceremony at 8.30pm.

Individuals from the competing nations lined up whilst their compatriots took their seats in side the arena awaiting their arrival.  The Prime Minister Mr Enda Kenny arrived and was introduced by the President of the Irish Tug of War Association Mr Dan McCarthy, to the TWIF Ex Co, Judges, Recorders, Marshals and other TWIF officials before the opening ceremony.  Short speeches were the order of the day followed on by a dancing display by some very stylish Irish Dancers.  Ceremony over it was onto the briefing and bed, awaiting the clash of the titans the following Morning.

The weigh master James Ward and his team of judges were ready and waiting from 7.30am to get everyone stamped on time for the start of the competition at 560kgs at 9.30am.  Time seemed to be marching on but once again the timing by the marshals and the competitors met the time line and took to the mats just ahead of time. 

Seven countries were represented by Scotland, Chinese Taipei, England, China, Spain, Ireland and Northern Ireland.  Not to be out done by the clubs event this was an equally gruelling event at this weight.  The team from Chinese Taipei were certainly well up for this having failed the last time.  They were impressive from the off and at the end of the round robin section, never had dropped an end.  Their nearest rivals were England having lost only three points to Chinese Taipei, closely followed by Ireland and in fourth place Northern Ireland.  The longest two ends of this section was between Ireland and Northern Ireland close to the end of the section, leaving each team with one point from their ventures.

Semi finals had been decided and Chinese Taipei were destined to pull Northern Ireland whilst Ireland would meet England.  Again nothing soft in any of the pulls  with over half on the finals going to two minutes and over.  Chinese Taipei had a hard tussel in the first end with Northern Ireland before defeating them by two pulls to nil whilst England had a similar type of pull against Ireland in the second before taking their place in the final by two pulls to nil.

So the final is decided and Chinese Taipei were destined to meet England.  In the round robin when Ireland had met Northern Ireland it had finished even stevens with one point each.  Testing the nerves again both teams were determined to take the bronze medal.  The team from Ireland had improved as the day went on and once again proved their metal by taking two very hard fought for ends against Northern Ireland to take the bronze.

Final time and England and Chinese Taipei were on the mats in front of the centre judge from Switzerland, Marcel Eggerswiller.  The first end proved to be a testing end for both teams but the strength and skill shown by Chinese Taipei won the day in 2.13 minutes for the first end and 1.33 for the second end with the gold medal being won by Chinese Taipei.  A great result for this young team.

Final result then was;-

  1. Chinese Taipei
  2. England
  3. Ireland
  4. Northern Ireland
  5. Spain
  6. Scotland
  7. China

On the other mat the ladies 540 was being contested between teams from South Africa, Spain, Chinese Taipei, Switzerland, China and England.  15 contests on the mat and after the round robin the top four teams emerging were Chinese Taipei, China, South Africa and Switzerland.  Again the method of one against four and two against three. In the semi finals Chinese Taipei and China progressed to the final whilst Switzerland would meet South Africa for the Bronze medal which was won by South Africa after two good pulls. 

The final was set to be a different event with neither of the teams wanting the silver medal.  4.04 minutes in the first end and 3.23 in the second end with the decision given by Mrs Angelini to China after a very strong and determined effort on the part of both teams.  This was one of the outstanding finals of the weekend.

Final positions this time were

  1. China
  2. Chinese Taipei
  3. South Africa
  4. Switzerland
  5. England
  6. Spain

With the International rugby in full swing this afternoon, some drifted off to watch the tangle between England and Ireland whilst still on the mats came the mens 640 event with teams entered from Spain, China, Scotland, Italy, England, Ireland and The Netherlands.  21 matches allowed for the round robin and in the end the following teams took up the first four spots namely Scotland, Ireland, Netherlands and Spain.  Semi finals again and at this early stage it looked as though Scotland and Ireland would be the top two teams having finished in that position in the round robin.

And so it proved.  But first to the bronze medal pull off.  Spain had been improving and showed their determination on many occasions during this competition.  It was to prove the same again with Spain taking the bronze medal.

Scotland and Ireland was going to be a great final with a very determined Irish side who had shown what they were made of on many occasions.  Scotland had also shown that they were back to their old ways again and were going to be very strong opponents in the final.  Italy again for the judge in the form of Edi Macor who had a great final with the decisions going to Scotland in times of 2.04 and 1.20 minutes and the title of gold medal winners 2014.

Final positions were

  1. Scotland
  2. Ireland
  3. Spain
  4. Netherlands
  5. England
  6. Italy
  7. China

Saturday over Rugby to watch and then off for an early night?

Sunday morning dawned again and weigh master James Ward and his trusty team stamped all of the teams in readiness for the morning competition.

First up came the men’s 600 with ten teams meaning this competition would be in one group with 45 contests.  Time came up on 9.30 and once again the teams took to the floor right on cue. In the round robin the longest end was between Japan and China at 3.37 minutes. 

Round robin over at the top four were Chinese Taipei, Scotland, Ireland and Spain in that order.  Semi finals and everyone can now work out who pulls who?

Chinese Taipei and Spain together whilst Scotland once again take on Ireland with Spain and Ireland going through to the bronze pull off.  There was a determination about Ireland that proved its worth taking both ends in 1.13 and 1.17 minutes along with the bronze medal.

If everyone looks at the face book page there are 18 minutes of pulling shown on YOUTUBE, just for the 600 final.  Two blow outs, three ends and the gold medal goes to Scotland by two pulls to one.  This was definitely a great final for these Championships.

Final positions

  1. Scotland
  2. Chinese Taipei
  3. Ireland
  4. Spain
  5. England
  6. Northern Ireland
  7. Netherlands
  8. China
  9. Japan
  10. Italy

6 teams entered the ladies 500 event  with the top four positions taken up by Chinese Taipei, China, Spain and Switzerland in that order

Semi finals were decided and Spain and Switzerland came through to the bronze pull off which was won by Spain in two straight pulls.  Final time again and three lady judges took to the mats with the centre judge Mrs Tomoko Amano from Japan.  Chinese Taipei and China yet again, and the large crowd were not to be disappointed by the high standard shown by both teams.

Three ends of over ten minutes in total this time saw Chinese Taipei come out on top against a very strong and determined team from China.  Again no one could be disappointed by the very high standard of pulling shown by two very good teams.

Final positions

1.   Chinese Taipei

2.   China

3.   Spain

4.   Switzerland

5.   South Africa

6.   Ireland

The weigh master had done the necessary again and had the entire teams ready on time for the afternoon competitions.

Mens 680 first with 7 teams in the round robin.  Top four positions being challenged for and Ireland, Scotland, England and The Netherlands taking those positions.  It is interesting looking at the results book that Ireland and China had no cautions during the competition whilst Scotland had only gained one!!

Bronze medal time and Netherlands would meet England.  Two big powerful teams, but only one winner by two straight ends to England.

Final again between the two close rivals from Ireland and Scotland with Dutch judge Bennie Schilderinck in the centre.  Super Sunday should have been the title for today as once again no one could be disappointed by the very high standards shown in the final.  Again three ends with a two to one result in favour of Scotland.  Again a great final on the last day of competition.

Final positions

  1. Scotland
  2. Ireland
  3. England
  4. Netherlands
  5. Italy
  6. Spain
  7. China

Last competition of the day, last competition of this World Indoor Championships and it was onto the 7 mixed teams.  Round robin again for the top four places with China, Chinese Taipei, England and Spain in that order.

Semi finals over and bronze medal pull off saw England defeat Spain by two pulls to nil and to take the bronze medal.  Final again between China and Chinese Taipei this time adjudicated upon by Dai Evans as the centre judge.  Very few two straight end finals today and once again this one went to the third end and the Gold medal going to Chinese Taipei.

Final positions

  1. Chinese Taipei
  2. China
  3. England
  4. Spain
  5. Netherlands
  6. Ireland and our new friends
  7. Singapore

All of the presentations were carried out very professionally and the end of the competition came suddenly with mats being removed, flags taken down and the after event party to look forward to.  Not much time to change though so no one was hanging about.

What a fantastic four days of competition, Saturday and Sunday especially showed just what our sport is about.  The Sunday finals were the best I have seen in many years.  A great credit to everyone who took part.  Certainly SUPER SUNDAY.

It has to be said that Dan McCarthy and his trusty team did one hell of a job.  Accommodation, facilities, medals, mats, presentations, weigh in, accreditation, arrangements, set up, meals, briefing.  Everything ran so well.  So on behalf of everyone that I know, to you Dan and your team, please take a bow for a job WELL done.

Also to Wendy Dyer and her team of recorders, Pete and the marshals as well as the judges, it was great to see the mix and camaraderie amongst everyone.   Well done.

At the briefings, mention was made of the position of the anchor rope and the back protection.  As the two words say, “back protection” not means of locking the rope!!

Many anchor people need to look to some of the young pullers and the not so young anchor people, who use little or no padding.  Some wear padding and a broad cloth belt that holds the back protector close to the body.  Causes no locks.  Doesn’t constitute a foul.

The rules are quite clear but some seem to make any excuse to use the protector as a means of locking the rope.  This was majorly ruled out during the competition, especially in the closed and is a position that anchor people need to pay attention to. 

Written by:  - 4 Mar, 2014