A life dedicated to his passion for clay pigeon shooting paid off for Newtoncunningham shooter, Jim Doherty, when his remarkable record in both national and International competition helped him claim the 2012 Donegal Sport Star Award.
39-year-old Jim was born in Paisley in Scotland to Seamus Doherty from Ballyshannon and his wife Nora, originally from Gweedore.
When he was two years old the family returned to home shores living in Newtowncunningham then moving to Gweeedore for a short while before finally settling back in ‘Newton’ again, where Jim now calls home.
During the week Jim uses his computer skills working in IT department for Donegal County Council in Lifford but it is on the weekend and in his spare time that the guns are drawn and he indulges his passion for the high flying sport of clay pigeon shooting.
For the last two decades Jim has quietly been racking up some serious national and international accolades for his eagle eyed sharp shooting.
It has brought him all over Ireland, Europe and the wider world including New Zealand, Australia, the Caribbean and South Korea.
In recognition of his dedication to his sport and the success he has enjoyed representing his country on the world stage, he was given the honour of being awarded the captaincy of the Irish Clay Pigeon Team this year.
Jim explains he is a serious fanatic for all sport especially GAA and rugby, but it going shooting with his dad as a teenager that his passion was locked and loaded.
“I got involved because Dad was a founding member of Moyle Game Conservation Club in Newtowncunningham and I would have gone out with him from a young age when we would go after game birds and the like. Then we went to a clay pigeon shoot one day and I just found that more interesting and it started from there,” he states.
From this he dabbled with clay for a few years in his late teens and it was when he hit the age of 20 he began to take it more seriously.
“I would have been about 20 before I could afford to take part. I had been shooting clay since about the age of 16 when I would have went along with dad. It was the sport for me. I could go out after pheasant or ducks and you might not get one shot off all day, but with clay shoots you will always get shooting. That’s the difference.”
The structure and competitive element suited Jim’s sporting edge.
“Now I had something to measure my improvement against and I liked the competitive edge as well. It is a sport and there is a competitive element competing against others and you can see where you need to improve to, that’s what I enjoy.”
Harbouring a natural ability and a keen eye, but it took hard work and much dedication to break into the top tier of Irish clay shooting circles
Jim explains: “To begin with it, when I was going to events with dad, I would have maybe had a wee bit of natural ability or I don’t know what to call it. It might have come a bit easier to me than other is one way of describing it but then you just work at it. You learn as you go along. Watching the right people and using that to compare yourself.”
Starting by travelling around the county to various events and with a bit of encouragement he soon found himself taking part in the circuit of national events.
“The one person I would have to mention would be John Campbell from Ballybofey, he definitely was an influence. He started taking me to what I call the ‘big shoots’, bigger competitions. He was my peer and I know when I started off he was the man you feared and was the one to beat so he was someone I looked up to.”
Jim then maintained a healthy mix of taking part in local events as well as regional and national events in those early days.
“There is a recognised shooting circuit within Donegal in Milford, Buncrana, Raphoe, Killybegs and Donegal Town. All through out the county, there is always a calendar of events but they would be smaller shoots in terms of what was happening nationally. So I would have competed in them quite a bit in early years, more so than nationally. That’s where I picked up everything. It was locally and I won’t say I set my sights higher but I then just started going to bigger events. In the last few years I probably haven’t spent enough time shooting locally as I should have but I’m not getting the time because I am away so often on the national circuit,” he explains.
That takes him all over the country from the furthest away in Kerry, Waterford and Clare, the midlands and the North.
It wasn’t too long before Jim’s sharp shooting began to land him in the medals of these events.
“When I started on the national circuit, week in, week out, these were qualification events for the national team so I qualified for them in 1998, so I have been there since. I was on the national team at about the age of 26. The first event was in Newcastle in England. It was very nerve racking for the fist time but it was a great honour. Qualification is still something you have to do to represent your country so there is that pressure every year.”
Despite a lengthy international career already he still finds the competition nerves jingle each time and serves to keep him focused on the task at hand.
“I still find myself nervous going into competition. Personally, what I find is if there are no nerves there then you would be better off sitting at home. You need that wee bit of nervous energy for to spur you on. It has to mean something.”
Of course it means more than when you get represent your country on a world stage and Jim’s success has been on target in a wider area as well.
“I’ve been to Australia, Dominican Republic, South Korea, America three or four times. Through Europe as well,” he added.
In the world championships in Newcastle in 2006, Jims hard work paid off when he placed fourth in the open event leaving him first in his prestigious AA class for the championships.
He also has a fifth place finish in the European Championships with a second in class placing to his credit.
“It’s all on the day at competition level. I was the captain of the Ireland team this year and we won the team event in the Europeans.”
Speaking of his award at the recent Donegal Sport Stars Award he won he stated: “It was lovely and it was unexpected. I was nominated in the shooting section before about eight or nine years ago but never had I expected to win the overall award. Shooting isn’t a sport that is in the mainstream so to get that recognition was great. I was a bit shocked on the night so I might have scampered out of the place a bit quickly but it is a great honour and I was delighted. It’s good for the sport to raise the profile of shooting because sometimes guns can get the wrong impression in the media so this could be a good reason to highlight it.”