Ireland’s Women’s Shore Angling Team: our unsung World Champions

Caoimhe Cooke

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It’s time we talked about Ireland’s leading world champions…

Yes, Ireland’s men and women’s teams secured a double gold at the 33rd World Shore Angling Championships in Wexford last November, proving that Irish anglers are among the best in the world at the moment.  What is triply impressive is the performance put in by the Irish women’s team, who were competing for the first time ever at this top level.

The Vaas Ladies team took first place after the first day against the ten other ladies teams, and managed to hold on to the lead for the remaining three days. Countries competing included Belgium, Croatia,  Cyprus,  England,  France,  Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Poland, Italy,  Netherlands,  Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Tunisia, Wales, Portugal and Ireland.

Overall placings for the team members were: Lisa Gormley, silver; Anne Whitty, bronze;  Jane Cantwell, ninth; Janet Snoddy, 26th and Pat Shortt, 36th.

Delight: Irish team members celebrate World success in Wexford

The full team consists of Anne Whitty Captain, Bannow Bay SAC; Jane Cantwell, Wexford Garda SAC; Janet Snoddy, Glengormley and District SAC; Lisa Gormley, Glengormley and District SAC; Linda Manton, Lisdoonvarna/Fanore SAC; Pat Short, Bray Sea Anglers and manager Jim Snoddy, Glengormley and District SAC.

Thecircular.org spoke to Tracey Whelan about her experiences as as member of Team Ireland:

Tracey Whelan, member of the 2016 Women’s Team:

How did you get into angling?

My son Andrew actually is the reason I started. If you had told me in 2010 that I would be angling, never mind preparing for a World Championships, I’d have died laughing! By driving Andrew to and from the various club and Munster Competitions I met with some very friendly parents and a few ladies who suggested we start a ladies team.

As with a lot of male dominated sports the notion exists that you had to be physically strong and ruthlessly competitive.

Wow! Just like that?

It was all very tongue in cheek at first and I don’t think I even caught a fish the first three times I went! But when I did, I was hooked (literally) and I threw myself into improving my very limited skills with the help of some of the most patient and generous people you could meet. I slowly started to gain confidence and some, if not a lot, knowledge.

What kind of skills are required to become a successful angler?

I can totally understand how people who are not involved in angling must be thinking ‘sure it’s all luck. Throw a few worms out and if the fish are there and they’re hungry, they’ll take it.’  Of course, there is an element of truth in that but it is the details and knowledge shared so generously by talented and experienced anglers that allows the slimmest of margins to appear and to make a difference and produce a winner. It’s this that makes the sport of shore angling so addictive and enjoyable.

Every year we are growing as a group and with this comes the challenge to improve and keep motivated

Women have played a relatively minor role in the history of fishing, why do you think that is?

Fishing has always been viewed as a man’s hobby and, although women participated in it, it was mostly just for fun as competitive angling is expensive, time consuming and, let’s just be honest, not very glamorous! But as with a lot of male dominated sports the notion exists that you had to be physically strong and ruthlessly competitive. It made a lot of women decide to ‘just leave it to the lads’.  But this is changing and I’m so glad that it is. It’s slow but every year we are growing as a group and with this comes the challenge to improve and keep motivated.

What is the best thing about being a member of the Irish Ladies Fishing Team?

I am privileged to have been on the Irish Team for the last couple of years and to have taken part in the Home Nations against England, Scotland and Wales. From what I can see the Irish Ladies Team are not only talented, but they are some of the nicest people to be around and that is the most important part of the sport for me:  the friendships I have made and the experiences I have had. Here’s to many more years of madness for we surely must be mad some of the weather conditions we are out in!

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Caoimhe Cooke