Sometimes it’s the maddest of ideas that can have the greatest impact. That’s not to say Ireland hosting an Olympic Qualifier Beach Volleyball tournament was mad but it was a little out of the left field.
It took place over the weekend on the beach at Bettystown in County Meath and a watching audience of up to 250,000 on the live stream will have been impressed by the capacity of organising such a prestigious event for the first time but also by the performance of the teams.
We are a broad church when it comes to sport in Ireland with over 70 varieties formally recognised but Volleyball has rarely shone among the brightest.
Sometimes a sport just needs a kick start and that was the purpose behind this.
It is a sport to which we should be suited. The main sport is played indoors on courts and is popular already at the school level.
That suits our climate and the crossover that can come from ball handling and spatial awareness that is already widely coached and held in high esteem in Gaelic Football and Basketball.
But grabbing attention via the variant played on the beach was a smart move and the backing of Meath County Council and Sport Ireland also seen as delivering reward in terms of awareness and potential growth.
The tournament was staged by the European governing Body and stating a case of competence with them regularly pays dividends, lifting our perspective from purely local to something more.
Ireland reached the silver match in the Men’s tournament, beating Scotland and losing out to Ukraine.
In the Women’s section, Izzy Carey and Alex Graves ran eventual champions Estonia close losing out 21-19, 21-17.
“It was so fun,” said Carey. “We have so many friends and family out and there are loads of people who have come out in support from around the area so it’s been an amazing environment to play in.”
Carey’s partner Alexandra Graves echoed her teammate’s sentiments. “It’s been fab. You can hear people cheering from the stands, I am getting coaching titbits from my friends, it’s really lovely. The atmosphere has been awesome.”
The rain held away for both days of Continental Cup action, with Sunday’s sun bringing the crowds to Bettystown beach to soak in the atmosphere and the action.
“It was a wonderful first event for Ireland and has set a benchmark for growing the game in the country,” said Volleyball Ireland General Manager Gary Stewart.
“Crowds were consistently good throughout the weekend with many first-time Volleyball spectators converted into fans.”
Image Credit: Dan Sheridan, Inpho.ie