Table quiz question -‘have Ireland ever beaten England in a game of squash at any level, EVER!!… the answer finally changed at 7 39 on Saturday evening in Cardiff. Stevie ‘Curly’ Richardson, Neal ‘Let please’ Murphy, Keith ‘Pop Socks’ Moran, John ‘Bull’ Hurley Neil ‘Wired’ Pollack, Nick ‘Limpy’ and Rob ‘Conduct Stroke’ Staunton changed that answer forever. For the first time in many years Ireland beat England 3-2 to win an historic first Home International title. This can only be described as a once in a lifetime result. With every player playing 2 matches over the weekend this was a real team effort. The close 3-2 wins over Wales and Scotland set up the final match with our English foe on Saturday evening.
Neil and Stevie got the match underway and we were all square at 1 match all with Rob Staunton next on. All hell broke loose at 9-9 in the fourth game with Rob Staunton being awarded a match turning no let on a very simple let ball decision. Suitably heated discussion with the referee then followed with a conduct stroke against Rob and the match awarded to England. The referee correctly was then removed as match referee. No luck of the Irish here. An historic victory did not look likely at 6.45pm.
Up stepped John ‘Bull’ Hurley and what followed was easily the best match of Johns life. The level of shot play, court coverage and sheer bloody mindedness was like something off the Hollywood script. At 9-7 in the fifth game Johns calf muscle went into cramp and he ended up on the floor. He proceeded to play the last 2 points limping on one leg and to win an astonishing match. John rarely says too much but even the quiet man was in full voice by the end of this match. 2 matches all, game on again…
The Irish over 55 Ladies and Men led in full voice by Anne Costello arrived in numbers for the last match. Every shouting voice would be needed. The English side went dead quiet. ‘Good stuff lets keep them that way’ was the whisper. Keith ‘Pop Socks’ Moran had to beat the English squash machine Jamie Goodrich to seal the win. A big ask on any day. Nerves were shot. Could he do it!! Under dog wins always need momentum and a good start. Keith was 10 – 7 down in the first. This was a critical game. A series of nerveless drops, volleys and pick ups saw Keith win five points on the trot to win 12- 10. Jamie Goodrich and England went pale. Those five points changed the match. England shifted in their seats, Ireland screamed their heads off!!!
What followed was simply the best squash Keith has ever produced. To beat Jamie Goodrich requires patience and tenacity. Not known as the coolest head under pressure Keith astounded the crowd with his composure. His shot play of drops, nicks, and straight drives had Goodrich looking more and more confused as the Irish winning momentum continued. 2 games to nil to Keith. The crowd went mad but everyone knew we were close but no cigars…
Keith got off to a good start in the third. All very tight and nervy. Then it happened. Jamie Goodrich the cool English squash machine hit a simple backhand volley into the floor. He missed it by miles!!. This guy does not miss those shots ever. He certainly never hits the floor before the front wall. Pressure! Pressure!! Pressure!!!. He was cracking for sure. The crowd were screaming for it. The English had their heads in their hands. And then our hearts stopped for about 3 minutes. Jamie fought and fought and fought. From 9 – 5 to Keith back to 9 all. Ohhhh No!. Please God No!. And the coolest head in the house was Keith Moran. The next two rallys were played like a summer breeze, both ended with crosscourt forehand nicks like he was just in a practice session. Cue court invasion, screams, a few tears, champagne, beers, wine, shots, brandys….etc. Loved every moment of it.!! Simply the best sporting moment of our lives. Neal Murphy.
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