The Irish Curling setup is on the up after some very positive results at European and World Championships in recent weeks.
Not known as one of the country's foremost sports, however, it is a growing scene and one that has reaped the rewards of the hard work put in over the last number of years.
Two weeks ago, the men’s team - comprising of Skip John Wilson, Craig Whyte, Kyle Paradis and James Russell, along with coach Eoin McCrossan - won a gold medal at the European 'C' Championships, in what was an extremely hard-earned victory, having been trying to get over the line for the past eight years.
Their 8-2 win over Ukraine in the final has seen them gain promotion to the ‘B League’ Championship, which takes place in late November of this year.
The step un in class will see them compete alongside some of the best teams in the world, but the reward for a successful championship? Potential qualification for the Olympics.
The Irish mixed team - coached by Johnjo Kenny and made up of the aforementioned Wilson and Whyte, along with the two female representatives, Alison Fyfe and Jen Ward - have also recently qualified for the World Mixed Championship (team of two males & two females) which is taking place in Aberdeen later in the year.
Wilson, Skip of both the men's team and the mixed team, was delighted with the recent success.
“We performed extremely well throughout the round-robin stage of the competition, winning 7 out of 8 games, and finished top of the group. This gave us top seed in the semi-final where we played Portugal and came out strong winning the game 8-2. In the other semi-final, the young Ukrainian team defeated the hosts Lithuania, which set up a great final.
Wilson said they were wary of the Ukrainian team, having already faced a stern test against them in the early stages of the competition.
"When we played Ukraine in the group stage it came down to the very last stone of the game so we expected another tough match. The first few ends of the final were extremely close with the teams exchanging single points and we went into the 7th end 3-2 up.
"We put a huge amount of pressure on the Ukrainian team and managed to score 5, which was enough to seal the victory and our long-awaited gold medal. I’m really proud of the effort the guys put in this week and couldn’t have asked for more from them. We know that there is a lot of work ahead of us to prepare for the competition but it will definitely be worth it when we get to pull on the green shirts once more."
Wilson added that it's very much onto the next task, with the Mixed Championships rolling into Aberdeen this October.
“The next competition that team Ireland looks forward to is the World Mixed Curling Championship in Aberdeen later this year. This team has a wealth of international experience and we have been playing well together all season.
"We will be competing against some of the best curling nations in the world so we’re really looking forward to it. As the competition is so close to home this year, it will hopefully mean we’re able to get some supporters along to cheer us on. At the last World Mixed in 2019 Ireland qualified for the playoffs but were beaten by the eventual bronze medallists Denmark. Our aim is to at least match that performance once again.”
The women's team gave a great account of themselves at the tournament, given their very recent forming.
Skip Ailsa Anderson lead her team to a very respectable fourth place finish.
One thing's for sure, Irish Curling is only going one way, and if they stay on their current trajectory, don't be surprised to see them in the Olympics very soon.