Visually impaired archer Kerry Ireland with his late father’s bow. PHOTO/JAKE BELESKI

JAKE BELESKI

jake.beleski@age.co.nz

Less than a month ago, Mauriceville resident Kerry Ireland was on a downward spiral and ready to give up on his archery career, but decided he wanted to honour his late father’s last wish.

The visually impaired archer has enjoyed success at a range of different levels over the years, but the death of his father and mentor, John Ireland, in September, caused him to question whether he would continue.

He decided to compete at the National Target and Clout Championships in Palmerston North last week, and paid tribute to his father in the best way possible by setting some personal bests.

“Thanks to some friends I went over to nationals in Palmerston North and did a personal best at 90m,” Kerry said.

“In the second practice round I nearly got a perfect round at 70m, and it was all thanks to the family — they really got me into the space where I could actually shoot.”

Right up until the event, Kerry was unsure if he would attend, but was pleased he did when looking back on how everything had panned out.

“Our little team from Marangai Archery Club went bloody well.

“I thought I wasn’t going to go — I went there but didn’t expect anything at all.”

Kerry said the last thing his father had said to him — two days before he died — was that he wanted him to compete at the nationals and also attend a drag racing event in Masterton.

John had played a massive part in Kerry’s success over the years, helping him take on his able-bodied rivals.

He was always there to help him set up his bow properly, and ensure he was ready to compete.

The last event they attended as a pair was over Labour weekend, where Kerry fittingly won a medal.

The Marangai club will be hosting an event over Wellington Anniversary weekend, and they have decided to re-name it the ‘John Ireland Memorial Shoot’.

Kerry will compete at the two-day event, and will even be using some special equipment.

“I’m going to shoot with dad’s bow at the memorial shoot, and I’ll be going even harder than usual.

“This year I also want to compete in the North Island Championships and the Indoor Nationals, and I want to go to Christchurch and overseas.”

John’s message to Kerry was always to go hard or go home, and to give everything his best shot.

Kerry said he will be taking that advice with him into every event from now on.

His mother, Marie, said medals were never the objective when her son went to nationals last week.

“The idea of nationals this year wasn’t solely about winning.

“This was the last thing John had set up for him, and it was all about honouring John.”

She was hopeful Kerry would be able to attend nationals next year in Auckland, but said they would need support and funding to make sure it could happen.

“Kerry can’t drive, so it’s a big job making sure he can get to these events.

“We’ve had lots of support which has been really helpful.”