Last weekend the Irish Federation of Sea Anglers held the Fish-Offs to qualify for the Irish team at the 2024 World Shore Angling Championships, due to be held in Spain. Captain JP Molloy was already selected as a result of winning the Master Angler competition, and the 5 other places on the team were up for grabs over the weekend in Youghal.

No national competition can run smoothly without a great club organising it, and West Cork & District SAC stepped up to the mark again and ran an excellent event. We’ll let Pete Davis from the club take it from there with his great report.

West Cork and District were the host club for this event which took part over 3 sessions on Saturday and Sunday the 15th and 16th. The Fish Offs as they are more commonly known is a pool of 36 of Irelands top shore anglers with 16 qualifying and 16 dropping out each year. This ensures a pool of talent always remains from which to select the best team possible to head off to a World Championship. Qualification for this event is achieved by finishing in the top 10 (of not already qualified anglers) of the previous Master Angler tournament, the Master Angler pitting the top anglers from each individual clubs league against each other. Winning your Provincial championship (Closed Gold) title will book you a place, as will winning the Jimmy Smith All-Ireland Open Shore title. You can see from all that that actually reaching this event is an achievement in itself and it is the single most important weekend on many match anglers calendars. The top 5 at the end of the weekend would be joining the team captain, JP Molloy who had achieved his place on the plane by winning the Master Angler title in Youghal back in February. There was a lot at stake for participants and with 16 dropping out, staying in the pool against a high class field would be no easy task either.
Irish team captain JP Molloy (right) was keeping an eye on proceedings with the stewards.
Venue selection was the same as for the recent Master Angler, there were to be 2 daytime sessions on the Slob Bank in Youghal with a night session on the beach itself. The Slob Bank is a marmite venue, some love it, some hate it but the fact remains that daytime venues around Cork suitable for hosting large numbers of anglers are few and far between. At this time of year, although the small round fish that make up the bulk of the catches in the winter months would be mostly gone, the flounder should have returned from spawning and made their way back in towards the estuary. On the beach, warming temperatures would mean dogfish and ray should be around, again the return of the flats were expected along perhaps with bass and the odd coalie/whiting/codling if conditions allowed. Fishing on the bank had been reasonable leading up to the event with the beach itself fishing really well in the preceding days.
Friday evening saw the peg draw with a lot of anglers nipping out that night for a quick look at the beach. Reports from that were mixed, some anglers had decent fishing, some had not but with a lovely small surf and reasonably coloured water, there could be no complaints about conditions. The weather forecast for the weekend was decent with storm Noel having passed through a couple of days earlier not making too much of an impact on things.
Saturday morning and the event kicked off proper in bright sunshine and waters clearing from the recent heavy rainfall. The fishing however unfortunately was very tough along the bank. Fish were really hard to come by with the middle zone, zone B, throwing up 5 blanks from 12 anglers. Tiny tides were doing little to move fish through the area unfortunately and it was something of a struggle. The round fish of winter had absconded and the majority of the fish caught were flounder with an odd dogfish. Crab baits at range were the order of the day and the biggest hitters from a casting perspective probably enjoyed a bit of an advantage. At the end of a somewhat underwhelming session it was Timmy O’Sullivan (Connacht) in zone A along with Alby Allen in Zone B and Ciaran Fogarty (Both Leinster) in Zone C that had taken the top spots. A break for a few hours followed before session 2 later that evening.
A decent flounder and a bigger smile. Most of the flats on the Slob Bank were a decent size.
Session 2 was to be fished from 8pm to midnight on the main beach itself in Youghal. Pegging ran from in front of the Leisure centre back towards town. This session was going to be an interesting one. We still had an hour or so of daylight along with an hour of the dropping tide. Those who had a look in the preceding days knew there was likely to be a mixture of fish around, at all ranges. 8pm came around and fish began coming in from the off.
No hanging around for darkness here, Darren Ryan makes a swift start in Zone C.
Anglers electing to fish in short were rewarded with flounders whilst a trickle of dogs and the odd ray became something of a flood as darkness descended. Derek Kenrick managed a triple shot of painted ray at one stage!
Nope, it wasn’t a dream, Dereks treble Ray on the sand. That would have taken a bit of hauling!
Mixing it up with short and long range worked well for some as the runs of dogfish and ray slackened off as the tide made its way up the beach. The fishing for some was superb with 60 odd painted ray being caught amongst dogs, flounder, coalies and an odd codling.
A fine late codling for Sean Ivory
After a welcome improvement in the fishing it was Timmy O’Sullivan again taking top spot in zone A, Aidan O’Halloran in zone B and Pete Davis (both Munster) in zone C.
It was back to the Slob bank again for the final session and it fished similarly to the previous day. A fish in these sessions was worth its weight in gold and had he been able to cash them in, Troy Francis would have been retiring early a happy man taking 10 fish from his peg in zone C.
Troy Francis, a more than deserving qualifier for Team Ireland 2024 with a treble shot.
There were a lot of frantic calculations being made as fish came in with the order of merit changing constantly.
At 3pm, with lines in, it was all over. Timmy O’Sullivan had once again reigned supreme in Zone A finishing with a perfect 36 points from 3 sessions. 2 Kerry lads, Shane McMahon and Troy Francis took Zones B and C respectively. With all the cards counted and checked the group on the plane to Spain was to be as follows.
JP Molloy (Captain)
Timmy O’Sullivan
Troy Francis
Chris O’Sullivan
Aidan O’Halloran
Ciaran Fogarty
The fishing had been extremely tough at times but you know what they say about the cream rising to the top…. This is an extremely strong team to come out of the Fish Offs that will head into battle next year. A massive congratulations to all of them and I am sure they will make waves in Spain next year, of that there is no doubt. Congratulations to those also who managed to fight their way through it and stay in the pool for next year. To those (myself included) who unfortunately dropped out, commiserations, that’s fishing and there’s always next year….. We go again!
A massive thanks to the lads behind the scenes in my own club who have hosted and run both the Master Angler and Fish offs in quick succession flawlessly. Hats off to you folks, there is an incredible amount of organization and preparation that goes into hosting events like this and they deserve great credit. To the stewards who gave up their time to spend their day marching up and down measuring, marking and returning fish, a huge thanks also, events like this can’t go ahead without you guys.

Photos courtesy of West Cork & District SAC, IFSA and Maurice Cronin Photography