So I suppose the first thing to do is to introduce myself I’m Neil Keeble or as I’m affectionately known in the archery world as ‘Kibs’. I’m a Barebow Archer And I started my archery journey in July 2021.
Well I say my journey started in 2021 but I suppose archery has always piqued my interest even as a child when on holiday with my parents, hotels would offer archery as part of their entertainment package.
Years passed by again doing archery on and off, until in July 2021 I went to Lusty Beg near Enniskillen to firstly and most importantly marry the love of my life, Siobhan, But the following day we tried a few activities one of which was of course archery.
Not long after this I decided that I wanted to pursue archery as a little bit more than a hobby, so I started Googling clubs near where I live and came across a club in Cookstown, Tyrone called Take a Bow. After a few weeks of attending, I asked the coaches at the club where I could look into purchasing a bow. They gave me a number for Kilmore Archery Club (now Archery Spot NI), I will be honest I was quite excited the thought I’ve owning my first bow and trying it out for the first time. I was set up with a Samick riser, WNS limbs 30lb and Easton XX75 arrows.
A few weeks later I got talking to my brother-in-law Kevin Donnelly and he invited me down to a club that he joined in Dundalk called Cuchulainn Archers. It was here is that my archery journey truly started.
In September 2021 I became a Fully fledged member of Cuchulainn Archers and Archery Ireland. I was also introduced to Christina Rogers And Eamon Rogers, Who are now not only mentors and coaches but also lifelong friends. I also bought myself a boss to use at home as I can get 18m in the side garden but also I have access to a garden were i can easily shoot 50m.
At the start I put a massive amount of pressure on myself, trying different additions to my bow thinking it would help me improve, don’t get me wrong some things did help, but 90% of my improvement was down to the coaching and mentorship within Cuchulainn and especially the help I received from Christina who I tormented with messages asking question after question.
I spent the next 4 months entering whatever competition was available travelling the length of Ireland, coming home disappointed at my performance.
My first competition was a outdoor 50m at Harbour House. I'd never shot 50m since I started and I'll be honest I had a good few misses but the experience was amazing.
If there is any advice I would give to anyone starting out is try everything no matter how daunting it may seem. In my first year I have done, field, 3D, target including 36 arrows 90m and 70m.
My first medal success came at the Irish Open in 2021, when I linked with Ann Marie Murray better known as Smiler to claim a silver in the Mixed Team as well as a respectable 4th place in the individual.
As I said earlier, Over the next few months I entered different kinds of competitions setting small but challenging goals each time, but not beating yourself up if you didn’t achieve them. One of the biggest pieces of advice I received which helped me was to use competitions as training, this actually improved my scores as I was more relaxed going into competitions. Don’t get me wrong picking up the occasional medal here and there is nice too.
Cuchulainn became like a family to me. Every member that I was introduced to was not only friendly but was supportive of my progress from beginner to where I am today.
Throughout this year I have made a number of changes not only to my form but also to my bow, I've added weight to my bow, changed plunger and arrow rest, also changed the bow string thanks to my friend/nemesis Owen Reynolds, but one of the biggest changes was to upgrade my arrows, after a bit of research and a lot of conversations with my coach I decided on the Black Eagle Interpids. Changing from alluminium arrows to carbon was strange at first, a lot of arrows had to be shot and tweaks made on the bow itself as they were alot thinner than my previous arrows but I'm definitely seeing the benefits of the change.
This year my coach also introduced me to shot process. I never realised how important this was until I started doing it. Personally I have a 11 stage process from walking to the shooting line to firing the arrow and making sure those 11 stages are repeated every arrow. This stages are totally different with each archer but they can be anything from how many breaths you take to how to load your arrow, the main thing is that you do the same thing every time.
In September this year I made one of the biggest decisions in my archery career.
I decided to entry my first international tournament and not just any international tournament. In January I will head to Nimes in France to take part in the World Indoor Series.
With this in mind I knew I had to increase my training and practice so I approached a couple of clubs local to me and asked if they would mind me joining them on their training nights. Luckily they were very encouraging and were happy for me to join them.
I also approached my employers to see if they would be interested in sponsoring me, happily again they agreed and covered my entrance fee.
My training has gone from maybe once or twice a week to 4-5 times a week including competing at the weekends.
In October a made a brave but big decision to upgrade my limbs, not only upgrading the quality of the limbs but also making a big jump in poundage from 30lb to 40lb, I have to say it was tough at first with a few aches and pains but now its the best decision I made. The extra poundage has actually improved my form, and im seeing it in my scores.
The Irish Open in November is how I'm gonna end my story so far.
This was a strange start to the day, I woke up and something had me nervous, I'd never been nervous before a competition before, I just couldnt shake them.
Even the drive down to Dublin I could feel the butterflies, I arrived early, chatted with friends and associates, then proceded to start setting up my bow. I was assured the nerves were normal.
I had a fairly poor start in qualification due to the nerves but slowly I started to settle and find my range finishing qualification in 2nd place.
Onto the Head to Heads which again saw me start slowly again against squeezing through to the semi finals where I stood against a familiar foe in Tony Eady, a tough match but made it to the final.
The final against Shay Fitzimons, this was a great match to be part of, nerves really took hold of me but I battled through and won becoming the New Irish Open Champion.
So now the focus turns to France, a lot of work, training and practice, it will be a massive learning experience but one im throughly looking forward too.
I hope i havent bored you to much with my story, and i hope that you can maybe take something away to use from my story.
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