Fifty eight registered archers at Stage 3 of the Indoor World Cup meant that the Irish presence was very much felt at the 2014 European Archery Festival. With competitors in six out of the eight available categories there was rarely a time when there wasn’t numerous familiar shirts to be seen on the shooting line at the Telford International Centre. Added to that total were the numerous supporters, coaches and parents that travelled over and could be found watching from the stands or in the practice hall, and being lured by all the merchandise on offer at the trade show. Qualifications were spread over Friday and Saturday, split into four different sessions. Knowing that the cut off was going to be at 32 archers made it a nerve wracking experience for most. High scores across all of the categories saw eight Irish make the cuts once qualification finished. Sinead Cuthbert and Maeve Reidy through in female recurve, Fiachra Verjans MacDermott in junior male recurve, Eimhin Gaynor and Glen Conway in junior male compound and Lauren Gaynor, Abigail Higson and Sharon Murphy in cadet female compound.
A quick summary of the elimination rounds is as follows; Sinead Cuthbert met Tatiana Segina, from Russia, who ranked 8th in qualifying. The Russian went on to win the match 7-1. Maeve faced the number 2 seed, Park Se Hui of Korea, who went on after a 2-6 win to take the silver medal. The Irish strength seemed to lie with their younger archers though. Fiachra Verjans MacDermott qualified in 26th place and therefore met the 7th seed, Erfan Ribas Malekzadeh of Spain. Unfortunately Erfan took the match 6-0, knocking Fiachra out. On the compound side of the hall we had a number of archers to keep our eyes on. Eimhin Gaynor ranked in 16th position during qualification. He faced Thomas Taylor, Great Britain, in a very evenly matched round. With a 5-5 tie after 5 rounds the match went to a shoot off with the young archer from Great Britain taking the win with a 10. Glen Conway faced the number 10 seed, Marcus Lagneholt from Sweden. Lagnehold took the match 6-2 and moved on the the next round. Sharon Murphy faced Lauren Gaynor in an all Irish elimination first round. With a 6-0 win Lauren moved on to the next round of eliminations. Abigail Higson qualified in 17th place and shot against Hollie Smith of Great Britain. Hollie won that match 6-0. After meeting Sharon in the first round of eliminations Lauren went on to face the 8th seed, Lucy Mason of Great Britain. Lauren held her nerve throughout the round and won with a decisive 6-2 to put her through to the quarter finals of the Stage 3 Indoor World Cup. It was in the quarter finals that she shot against the no 1 seed, Aalin George, Great Britain, who qualified with a strong score of 570. Undaunted Lauren shot with confidence but was unable to take the match. With a 6-2 score Aalin George moved on to the semi finals, and then to the finals where she took the gold medal in cadet female compound.
A large number of Irish shooters entered the Second Chance Tournament which was held on Sunday morning before the final matches of the Festival. While those who had qualified for elimination matches on Saturday evening caught up on some hard earned sleep dozens of archers from all over Ireland fought it out on Vegas style faces for the top places, and a chance for sponsored prizes from the tournament sponsors. Archers in all four categories brought home new equipment with Deirdre Pattinson taking top Irish accolades with a 4thplace in female compound.
The medal matches for the tournament were certainly memorable on Sunday afternoon with an all British cadet female compound final, an all French male recurve final, an all Korean female recurve final and an all Dutch male compound final. The female recurve match being the tournament highlight with a second one arrow shoot off needed to determine a winner. The fighting Irish returned home with a wealth of experience, knowledge, prizes, personal best scores, souvenir target faces and as much new equipment as they could afford, along with signed posters, photographs with their heroes and peers and a hunger for the podium.