Ballyvally Archery Club is fast securing its spot as home of British field archery.
The Banbridge club have a record six archers named in the GB team for this summer’s World Championships in Croatia.
Rebecca Lennon, Mark Nesbitt, Craig McCreery, Dean Hamilton and Robert Mallon have again been called up again while Morgan Russell Cowan is in the squad for the first time.
Ballyvally had three members in the team last year but have doubled their tally, much to the delight of Chairman Frank Mulligan:
“It’s never been done before to my knowledge. There’s around 30 in the overall team so to have six from one club is quite an achievement.”
Mulligan says the secret to the club’s outstanding succes is “hard work” and it is he that puts in as much or more of that than anyone with 20-25 hours of voluntary work on an average week and up to 50 on special occasions.
GB archer and Banbridge Sportsman of the Year for the past three years Mark Nesbitt paid tribute to his Chairman
“Frank is great with us all. He is Ballyvally. The club is doing really well and we have great facilities and coaches like Frank.”
Ballyvally use three training facilities, one in Loughbrickland, one in Castlewellan Forest Park and one at Greenmount. Chairman Frank Mulligan stressed the positive impact that the premises has on their archers to make them into international stars:
“We have a huge variety of courses for them. It means when they go to shoot in a different country, they will have experienced something similar in one of our facilities.”
Mark Nesbitt is no stranger to the limelight, having shot for Team GB for the past seven years. He’ll be looking to lead his clubmates to a positive display in Croatia’s World Championships in August.
“I’ve been shooting fairly well recently so I have fairly high hopes for the tournament,” he said.
“I would be hoping for a top six finish for us. At the Europeans, we aim for top three so top six at the Worlds would be great.
“The club has been running coaching sessions and I’ll be trying to help the other guys as much as I can by passing on the knowledge and experience that I have gained over the last few years.”
Dean Hamilton, who will shoot with the GB senior field team this summer, has recently returned from the Junior European Championships in target archery with a bronze medal. Nesbitt says it’s a case of success breeding succes at the club as the next generation come up through the ranks.
He said: “Dean’s very naturally talented. He has that natural ability.
“I think everyone is working very hard and then when some of us make the team, others want to follow in our footsteps and that fires them on as well. Everyone pushes each other on.
“This summer’s tournament is field archery. Dean’s medal came in target archery and they’re totally different. Target archery is the Olympic discipline and there’s a lot of money pumped into it but for the last couple of years, I’ve been concentrating on field archery. You have to guess the distance for it.
“There’s another two from Northern Ireland in the team this summer as well in Jordan Mitchell from Larne and Sophie Benton from Newtownards. It’s great that there are so many of us.”
The club has stretched its reach to men and women of all ages. Their youngest archer is four and the oldest 90. Little wonder then, that they’re producing such a string of talented sportsmen and women.
Chairman Mulligan said: “We have around 4-500 archers at the club. Our list of champions goes back to the 80s and 90s so we have a great tradition. When archers join, they see these guys and think “I could do that too.” They see these superstars and they know them because they’re down at the club training with them. They’re a great example to the other guys.”