2023 WSF Men’s Team World Championship Review

A 17th place finish, usurping their original seeding (18) was the ultimate outcome for team Ireland at the recent Men’s Team World Championship in Tauranga, New Zealand.

In a week filled with high-quality squash, unlimited drama and lifelong memories, the Irish team consisting of Sam Buckley, Michael Creaven, Oisin Logan and Sean Conroy proved they belong at the top table of international squash, with some stellar performances and convincing victories proving their mantle.

Ireland were facing an uphill battle before even making it down under as they were seeded 18th of 24 and were drawn in Group A alongside top seed, reigning champions and eventual champions, Egypt and a tough Malaysian outfit. Despite the inevitable challenging task, there was plenty of optimism surrounding an Irish team comprising youth and experience with the team winning silver in Division 2 of the European tournament equivalent, ultimately gaining promotion to the premier division of European squash earlier in 2023.  

After a wonderful, culture driven opening ceremony, the boys in green got their campaign underway against a fancied Malaysian side. Ireland’s number 1, Sam Buckley gave the side a dream start and provided a true highlight of the tournament comfortably defeating Adreen Idrakie, world no. 64 (more than 60 places above Sam) in straight sets (11-9, 11-4, 11-6). Unfortunately, that was as good as it got for Ireland in match one with Sean Conroy and Oisin Logan battling to tight losses against their Malaysian opponents. This left Ireland with a mountain to climb, knowing only a win against the titans of Egypt would give them the opportunity to reach the finals play-off section.

Our young stars got to experience a massive developmental learning curve against eventual tournament winners Egypt, as they had the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with three of the world’s best players under the biggest spotlight. Sean Conroy took on world no.7 Mazen Hesham, Sam Buckley faces world no.4 Mostafa Asal and Oisin Logan battled world no. 12 Youssef Soliman. Each player succumbed to straight set defeats against their African opponents, meaning Ireland fell into the 17-24th place play-off section.

The team faced outsiders Tahiti as their first barrier in their quest for 17th spot and comfortably saw off their island opponents 2-0 with Sam Buckely and Michael Creaven producing the goods in two straight set victories. This win set up a battle with Japan.

Ireland once again showed their superiority and emphasised the impact they may have had on the 1- 16th part of the draw, had they been drawn in a more favourable group as they dismantled Japan 2-0, as Sam Buckley and Oisin Logan ensured Ireland would battle the Netherlands for in a showdown for the 17th spot. 

Having made it to the 17/18th place play-off final, team Ireland had already matched their seeding with a chance to finish top of the bottom half of the draw, against their higher seeded European opponents. In what proved a tense affair, straight set victories from Sam Buckley and Oisin Logan meant Ireland left New Zealand with 17th Place wrapped up, the best possible outcome after falling into the 17-24th place playoffs.  

In winning each play-off game without losing a match, Ireland once again proved that they have what it takes to compete against the world’s elite and had things gine differently, may have caused some shocks in the 1-16th place play-offs. Ultimately this was a wonderful learning curve for the lads as they now turn their focus back to their individual campaigns for the remainder of the 23/24 season.

Hopefully, this tournament was just a sign of things to come for a young squad as the Olympic Games qualification looms closer in 2028.

Massive thank you to our sponsors and supporters who supported the team; UPMC Sports Surgery Clinic, Cassidy Travel, EventHaus and GillenMarkets. This journey would not have been possible without their generosity.