So the Irish Squash Grand Prix has officially kicked off with a splendid new tournament (though a replacement for Carlow) in the Curragh. I played in the Curragh for the first time six years ago. And what should I say – it was a Premier League match on a Wednesday evening, we got stuck in traffic, it was a miserable night and it took us one and a half hours to get there from Dublin (thanks also to getting lost in the Curragh). In addition to that the courts were a little, well, lets say I was used to different courts in Germany. And they were pretty freezing!
Now, six years have passed and the Curragh is a different place. Neil Brannigan has redone the courts
(there are four – one glass-back), brightened the place up, added a little shop and a sizable changing room, and it’s a totally different place! If you live in Dublin it still takes you good 40 minutes to get there if the traffic is good, but there’s really nothing to complain about. There’s also a pub around the corner that serves pints for under 3€.
To crown the renewal of the Curragh Squash Club the Curragh Open is now part of the Grand Prix, and has attracted over 70 players in total – a great result in my opinion. I missed the ladies’ matches tonight but nine ladies made it down, which is heartening to see; Breanne Flynn is the top seed.
In the mens’ draw Graeme Stewart is number one, seeded to play Rory Byrne in the finals. Both got off to winning starts this evening winning comfortably. The match of the evening was between Eoin Ryan and Niall Rooney. Niall’s been injured for a long time and has slipped in the ranking dramatically, which meant he was seeded 13th and faced Eoin in round 1. Brian Byrnewas the poor referee who had to oversee proceedings, and it went to the wire with Eoin snatching a 15:13 win in the fifth game!
There were only two other ranking upsets: Bryan Byrne beating young seventh seed Rory Birtwistle 3:0, and Dan Zilic beating Ronan Peyton, the sixth seed, 3:1.
Tomorrow, Saturday, sees an action packed day of squash, with the first intriguing match-up between Eoin Ryan and Sean Conroy, Ireland’s number one under 19 player. Also worth noting is the brotherly battle between the Byrnes, Brian and Rory. Brian, who had taken a hiatus form Squash for a few years, marked his comeback last season and has been progressing up the ranking steadily, so it’ll be interesting to see how this one pans out.
Lastly, the new season brings some innovation with a change in modus operandi: players in the Men’s A 13 – 16 bracket will be facing off against the Men’s B 1 – 4 bracket. I am not entirely sure of the details, but I heard a few players talking excitedly about the new mode.
That’s all for now – I’ll try and take some pictures in tomorrow’s post! (Dan Z.)