An eagle-eyed Italian has converted a cohort of Loughrea locals into archery enthusiasts – in the heart of their local forest.
Mattia Cestonaro established Loch Riach Traditional Archery, Galway’s first field archery club to be affiliated with the Irish Field Archery Federation (IFAF).
After raising almost €800 in public donations, he set up the course suitable for different levels in a forest located in Peterswell on the Slieve Aughty Mountains.
Field archery allows participants to shoot at a variety of targets. Targets can be concentric circles, animal faces on paper or 3D animal targets, at different distances, which may or may not be marked.
There is a main course in the form of a loop, where small groups of archers, usually up to four, walk around and stop at each station to hit a target.
The club is a not-for-profit organization whose primary aim is to promote our beloved sport in Ireland.
“It’s a sport for everyone, we have kids, adults, families shooting together. It’s a lot of fun,” enthused the native of Vicenza in northeastern Italy. .
“This is an exciting new activity for the local community, as well as visitors from other counties and clubs.”
Mattia created three small bridges to cross the river at different points using paddles on the course which is set in over 160 acres of forest. There are currently 14 targets spread over 1.5 km, crossing different types of terrain.
The club teaches a “traditional and instinctive way of shooting”.
“It’s a tough course with different tricky shots, uphill, downhill, between the trees. We tried as much as possible to use natural safety nets to make the shots as natural as possible,” explains- he.
“We think of our club as a group of friends who share the same passion, we organize many social activities and we encourage members to volunteer in club activities.”
The main course is entirely made up of 3D targets.
“We believe there is nothing like the sight of a realistic 3D target in the forest.”
Several of the first courses organized last July were sold out. August classes are full.
It costs €50 per person for four weekly one and a half hour lessons, with a minimum age of eight years set for participants. Archers under the age of 18 must have at least one parent participating in the course with them. Adult club membership costs €60 for the year, while children pay €30, which includes social club membership.
“There was an overwhelming reception to our first introductory courses and an ever-increasing conversion rate, which saw 100% of those who completed the course become members of the club. It was amazing and it has already paid off the months of hard work in the woods,” enthuses Mattia.
The club will now focus on ensuring that all new members receive proper support during their first months in the world of archery.
Mattia was an archery campaigner in Italy but took a few years off until he had the opportunity here over three years ago to rekindle his passion.
“I got back into it thanks to my friend Enea, who is the son of the iconic Italian character Papeto, who is one of the greatest masters of instinctive shooting and whose values and values he tries to promote and bring to life. philosophy for over 45 years.
“It’s the same thing I try to do with the club, I offer introductory courses where you cover all the basics of archery in the field and where I try to spread my philosophy of archery which has the social aspect of this discipline in its fundamental values.
“To put it simply, I am in love with this sport and I try to transmit my passion to others.
The Italian moved to Ireland from Italy in 2014 in search of a lifestyle change. After three months in Clifden, he transferred to Galway and found a supply chain job with Schneider Electric, where he continues to work.
In December 2020 he bought a house in Loughrea and moved in with his partner Tatiana.
“It was a milestone in our lives, and we couldn’t be happier with our choice. We have found a lovely welcoming community, everyone is so kind to us and there is so much to do here: from the lake which is on our doorstep, and we walk our dogs daily, to the many sporting activities available. ”
Mattia plays with Loughrea Rugby Club and recently helped organize a group of 14 Italian teenagers to visit Loughrea from his former club, Rangers Rugby Vicenza. They stayed with host families and trained with Loughrea RFC for a week.
Ireland Reaching Out’s Mike Feerick said he and his wife Eileen regularly get behind the bow and arrow on a Sunday morning after completing a beginners course earlier this summer.
He praised the hard work of Mattia, with the support of Coillte, to turn an area of Slieve Aughties into a recreation centre.
“It is interesting that someone has come to live with us and helped us to strengthen our community, starting a new hobby in the locality which takes advantage of the wonderful hinterland we have in East Galway.”
“It’s a big undertaking for anyone – but he persevered and indeed succeeded.”
Mattia intends to expand the course with new goals and create a wider range of training.
“We plan to create beautiful picnic areas for members to spend time together with benches and tables and shelter for rainy days. We also plan to host the first official IFAF shoot in 2023, where people from other clubs across Ireland will come and compete as part of the annual IFAF calendar,” he explains.
“The future that awaits me is exciting and I am very proud to be able to offer something different to a community that gives so much to me and my family in terms of quality of life.