The six draw strong Munster Open 2012 finished today with what was a Carlow clean-sweep in the top flights, with Claire O’Neill taking first place in the Ladies A with a win over Ciara Moloney , and Arthur Gaskin beating Brian Byrne by three games to love. It’s worth pointing out that the finals were held in Sunday’s Well (2 courts), which is the main Munster Open venue, along with Silversprings (2 courts) and Highfield (3 courts). It may sound odd to have a tournament in three venues, but the Munster Open tournament crew managed the six draws (Mens A – E and Ladies A) marvelously, as always. Incidentally, this year was also the first year I personally got to see all three venues – my first matches were in Sunday’s Well and I was 100% sure my 10:40am match on Sunday morning was at Highfield (it wasn’t). I arrived there after a forty minute walk at 10:35am, only to find the club closed. Fifteen minutes later a cab finally stopped, and I was at Silversprings another fifteen minutes later. Luckily, Silverspring’s tournament assistant Eddie Murphy and my opponent Michael Craig were very accommodating with my late arrival.
As I mentioned before, the Mens A draw was a real cracker, and following some early upsets on Friday, seeds continued to tumble on Saturday. Graeme Stewart, the number one seed from Belfast, lost to Brian Byrne 3:1 – the same scoreline as in the Curragh Open two weeks previously. Niall Rooney got past number four seed Keith Moran in four hard games, while Arthur Gaskin and Derek Ryan got past Steve Richardson and Rory Birtwistle.
While Brian Byrne, having not played a full season in 2011/2012 and is still moving up the ranking, continued to move effortlessly and very very quickly, by the semis Niall Rooney was struggling with blisters. When Connaught man Rooney lost the first game in the tie-break, it was always going to be an uphill struggle, and he ultimately faltered 0:3. Nonetheless, Rooney will have been very happy with his fourth place finish (he had to concede his last match), which will see him jump a few positions in the ranking. The other semi-final was a repeat of the 2011 final between Derek Ryan and Arthur Gaskin. Gaskin, currently just outside the top 100 in the world managed to beat Ryan 3:2, 11:2 in the fifth, but Ryan, 15 years Gaskin‘s senior, looks in great form. I am sure his recent matches in the Legends of Squash series, where he faced former world number ones David Palmer and John White, have been great preparation!
Despite his tough Saturday matches, Arthur Gaskin was always in control against Brian Byrne, but Brian, with his irresistible pick-ups and court coverage, never gives up and made Arthur work for his win. Gaskin, currently based in Bristol and having travelled to Brail, Costa Rica, and Gibraltar for his most recent PSA events, will be happy to see that he is still very much the man to beat in Irish squash! And speaking of happy: a special shout-out to the junior program at Carlow Lawn & Tennis Club, who provided the Munster Open 2012 with not two, not three, but all four finalists of the A-draws. Dan Z.