UCD Open 2 and disaster strikes!

Okay, so not in the match itself, that went rather well and I’m quite happy with the scores our squad put in, but a connecting rod in my Izzy has broken! No!

Broken IZH-46M

Well, it doesn’t look that serious. I’ll bet it would just be a short bit of work to fix, if I could find the time.

In other news, the new procedures for handling challanges and returning targets worked fairly well. We tried both a single waiver sheet to sign for your targets and individual waivers per person, but the single sheet proved more managable on the day. I think we should go with that in future.

I’m growing more convinced though, that we need three people in the range to run a match right. One supervising the range, one supervising the stats office and one looking after equipment control. That last bit will start to take more and more time as we bring in more and more equipment control checks beyond the current pistol trigger weight check and the upcoming pistol box for checking dimensions. Things like rifle weight, rifle dimensions, and then on to clothing checks, that’s where we want to go until we have national competition standards that are at least a match for major Bisley competitions. And of course, all this means training, so yes, we will put together a training course for match operations/statistics office operations (that might be one course or two, we’re not sure yet). More details as they’re available, and it’ll go up on the NTSA site as soon as we have something as well.

As to the DURC Squad, I’m quite happy with their scores overall. Gear got left behind on the Sunday, that probably cost people anything up to twenty points apiece, if not more. That won’t happen for the colours. And some made silly mistakes that we can fix before the colours, so that doesn’t worry me either. All they have to do at this point really, is to keep calm and shoot the match like it was just mowing the lawn.

We also had one of the fullbore bretheren come down to the match and shoot with air pistol to see what ISSF is like – he enjoyed it quite a bit, found it had more challange than it’s given credit for, and he’s returned the favour by inviting some of UCD’s air pistol shooters to go fullbore shooting later on. So that might be the start of something good, who knows?

UCD Open Thursday detail

Well, we couldn’t get everyone on the squad to go to the match on the weekend because some had work and other things they couldn’t get out of. So we organised three slots on the thursday night detail in UCD and I drove the girls and their kit out there to shoot and back again, and ran stats while I was there.

And man, did they kick ass. One set what has to be a club record (and which might be an Irish record, but we’ve not finished checking the records yet) for a highest first-match score with 527 (honest, she’d never even picked up a rifle before October), and the others did well as well (though one learnt that if you shot in pumps rather than shooting boots, your score suffers!).

So overall, it was a good detail and well worth the effort it took to get them there and back!

FIS/Bar Council Sports Arbitration conference

So what do you do when you’ve got a problem with how a match was run or over not being picked to represent your country or whatever? For a lot of sports – boxing, athletics, etc – in Ireland, the ultimate – and usually reached too soon – answer is the High Court. Which is ridiculous – this year, to pick one unnamed sport as an example, the NGB received €120k of taxpayer’s money in grant aid and almost €90k of it was spent on legal fees. That’s obscene, and it’s not the worst case this year. And court cases that drag on for months if not years? That’s no good for anyone.

The answer, or at least one proposed answer, is arbitration, where an independent third party hears out the dispute and makes a ruling based on the case. It’s fast, it’s simple, it’s cheap and it’s fair, and therefore it’s ideal for sport. Which is why the Federation for Irish Sport has been working with the Bar Council to put together a national arbitration body called Just Sport Ireland (there’s already an international “supreme court” of arbitration in sport, called the CAS in switzerland; JSI would be the national equivalent, linked to the CAS). JSI went live recently and so the FIS and the Bar Council (who are heavily involved in sports arbitration work right now) had the first in what will be a series of conferences and workshops on arbitration in sport for NGBs.

The idea is a simple one. The FIS will assist the NGB in ensuring the NGB’s internal grievance resolution processes are fit for purpose and, once they are, the NGB will put it in their constitution or articles that if the person with the grievance wants to appeal the NGB’s decision after an internal process, that they will do so to the JSI body rather than take an action in the High Court. Anyone who’s a member of your NGB will have signed up to this, so everyone gets a nice, simple, cheap, fast and fair solution to grievances.

Has the NTSA signed up for this? Well, no, not yet. It’s due to be presented as an option at the next committee meeting, but there’s so much on that agenda that it may not be voted on for a few weeks. But personally I think it’s the best way forward. I don’t believe a sports body has any business going to the High Court with one of it’s own members on the other side of the room, and if JSI means that won’t happen and things will be fair, then I’m all for it.

NTSA Committee Meeting #6

Now there was a meeting I thought we made real progress at. We sorted out the international matches for the remainder of the year. Matches other than the europeans or Munich or the GB Jr Intl, we’re not sending a team to, so we can concentrate our resources on the ones remaining. Next meeting, we sort out the international matches for 2008, which lets us get a head-start on organising them, and we might take a stab at 2009 while we’re at it.

We also agreed I’d start a sub-group to take on the consultation process so we can get work done on that faster than if we had to arrange logistics for the whole committee. With three or four people, we could meet once a week or more and thrash our way through the submissions and put together proposals for the full committee with a decent amount of speed, far faster than before.

It’s a gratifying feeling, when stuff starts moving like that!

Best meal ever

Last night was herself’s birthday, so we went out to Jacobs Ladder for the tasting menu and to hell with the Atkins diet for the night. Oh dear sweet flying spagettimonster…

Nine courses. (We don’t drink so no wine, but frankly, it would have ruined the taste for me anyway).

It started with a porcini mushroom brulee topped with half a roasted porcini mushroom. Wonderfully savory and salty, with the sugar just perfectly setting it off.

Then there was an incredibly rich pea soup served alongside an oyster under foam. The pea soup was magnificent, rich and layered. The oyster was the first one I’ve ever tried (Herself had to tell me how to eat it) but it was also the single strangest, most potent experience I’ve ever had when eating. As I poured it into my mouth, the taste, the smell of it triggered this massive burst of memories from when I was a kid and we used to go out to Fenit, just outside Tralee, and just walk along the pier there with all the fishing boats and the smell of the atlantic. It was extremely potent. Absolutely the height of the meal.

Then there was a pan-seared scallop served with passionfruit dressing and a wonderfully crunchy mangetout salad topped with something I didn’t catch the name of, but which apparently was frozen and allowed to come back to room temperature and which had this explosion of sourness in the aftertaste.

Next came a roasted breast of quail served on a bed of lentils, a deep-fried drumstick of quail, and a quail’s egg, poached, served in a small cup with lentils in a rich savory broth that had some foie gras in it. Magnificent. The quail was rich and juicy and had a wonderfully savory, gamey flavour, the egg and the foie gras and the lentils worked together perfectly.

Then there was foie gras and duck terrine, served with an apple chutney that was laced with allspice, and a reduced-to-a-paste apricot puree, topped with a single apricot, stuffed with foie gras and then deep-fried in a tempura batter, all with a side of a toasted slice of brioche. Unbelievably layered in taste, and everything complimented everything else. We tried a dozen different combinations of the foie gras, the duck, the brioche, the chutney and the apricot and all of them worked magnificently.

I should point out that by this point, Herself and myself were damn near high from all of this Especially after a month of dieting

The next dish was pan-fried fillet of sea bass with orange foam and two cubes of spinach jelly topped with a thin layer of the same jelly topped with spinach leaf. It was perfectly cooked sea bass, the fillet melted in the mouth and the skin was wonderfully crunchy, which only counterpointed the fillet. The spinach and the foam gave some lovely side flavours to the fish, but the fish was definitely the main point of the dish, more so than anything before this, where it had been about the combinations of things.

The “main” course of the meal was perfectly cooked venison, served in a deep, rich mushroom-based sauce, with braised red cabbage and a small garlic potato tart-like affair topped with a single knotted scallion, with a side dish of potato which had been cubed and cooked with cream and yeast, which we both thought sounded odd, but which was utterly wonderful – like malty potatoes. The venison was the best I’ve ever tasted, and the sauce matched it like a glove – it didn’t hide the taste of the venison, but enhanced it. The cabbage matched it perfectly and the overtone of the garlic was just the icing on the cake.

We were kindof sad at this point because the next dish was meant to have been the last (I thought it was an eight-course menu), and it was an interesting take on banoffie – a large shot glass with banana and some spices in a caramel with a whisky sabion on top. Perfectly balanced, and a lovely dessert dish.

And then the waiter brought out the ninth dish, which was the single best dessert I have ever had in my life. And it was very simple and didn’t involve chocolate. A brioche pudding, like a light version of a bread-and-butter pudding, served with a single scoop of milk sorbet. The brioche on its own was wonderful, but with the milk sorbet, it was this wonderful warm, comforting dessert in your mouth and the sorbet cleansed the palate as it went down so you finished the dessert feeling wonderfully satisfied but without any lingering aftertaste or feeling of heaviness or anything. It was dessert perfection.

And then coffee, and that was that.

Definitely the best meal I have ever had. Ever. Took ten years to beat the last time that record was set for me (by a little restaurant in a tiny side alley in the plaka in Athens), but this just stomped on in there and kicked that to the kerb.

Yeah, it’s got nothing to do with shooting. :p