Ireland won the Men’s O40’s Home International which was played in Nottingham. The Irish Men’s O40’s winning a historic treble in this age category managing to edge out England by a single point overall. Ireland have won this event for the last 3 years.
In the individual matches they beat England 3-2, Wales 4-1 and Scotland 5-0. A super result. The squad was Rob Staunton, Dara O’Flynn, John Hurley, Neal Murphy, Steve Richardson, Nick Staunton, Andre Davies.
See the full scores HERE
Friday 5th May
England v Ireland: 3.2
Ireland travelled to Nottingham with Steve Richardson lining out 1, Rob Staunton 2, Dara O’Flynn 3, John Hurley our Captain at 4, Nick Staunton, 5, Neal Murphy 6 and Andre Davis completing the 7 man team. Team support included as always Bruce Staunton – Nick and Rob’s father.
Ireland was defending the O40’s title for a second year running and faced a very determined England in the first tie on the Friday evening. It was to prove an epic team performance from both countries where every player stood toe to toe with one another in a fixture that lasted beyond 5 hours. This as described by the England Captain Christian Donelan ‘will probably go down as a contender for one of the most nail biting and exciting nights of team squash in the Home Internationals’.
First on court was Neal Murphy against the England Captain Christian Donelan, a true gent off the court but a lion once the games begin. Murphy got off to the perfect start working himself into a 2.0 lead, Christian made him work hard for his lead and it paid off when he won the 3rd and 4th to take it into a decider. This match was in the balance and both players were trading blows on court, both knew the significance of a good start for their countries so the exchanges were tense. Murphy renowned for his gutsy determination and stubborn streak on court edged the decider winning 11.7 in 69 hard fought minutes. A great start for Ireland.
Next on was team Captain John Hurley facing an equally imposing Jonathan Gallacher. Both men well over the 6ft mark showed touches of finesse, playing accurate squash that it was difficult to separate them apart. Jonathan took the first game but John found his range and started hitting his targets stretching his opponent and once the opportunity arose he managed to close out the rallies with some deft touches. The 3rd went to Jonathan 12.10 but John reciprocated 12.10 in the 4th bringing us into another decider. At this stage watching both men take to the court it was like watching two heavy weights that had up to that point given it all, the last game was pure determination from both men attacking and defending as if their lives depended on it, John drew on his sheer bloody mindfulness and skill to edge out a great competitor winning 11.7 in match that ran 2 minutes longer than the first totalling 71mins.
This put Ireland 2.0, next on was Rob Staunton who was playing Jamie Goodrich at 1, England needed Jamie to deliver and he was also determined to peg the Irish back. Rob got off to a steady start playing controlled squash and took the first 11.9. Jamie however was not to be denied and found his rhythm in the second taking it 11.3. The third was to be a critical set and went all the way, both players fully committed were trading points and it was again proving difficult to separate both men, Goodrich put in a huge effort eventually taking it 16.14. Jamie was ultra consistent delivered a strong finish in the 4th winning out 3.1, both players played to an extremely high level but this put England back into match.
Next up was Rob Twin brother Nick – described as enigmatic by the English Captain (which reads argumentative and elusive! – this can’t be true!) faced Paul Boyle who was in ruthless form. Nick a great competitor in match situations started with intent but Boyle was equal to him punishing any loose squash, the first game ran very tight with the Kiwi (whoops the Englishman!) taking it 11.9. Nick threw the kitchen sink at Boyle but once he gained the momentum he never relinquished it despite Nick’s best efforts winning the 2nd & 3rd in match lasting 30mins.
Last on court was Dara O Flynn playing Ashley Bowling at 2 which turned into a rollercoaster ride for both players and spectators alike. Both countries were locked at 2:2, both countries and players understood the stakes even at this stage of the weekend where a win for either nation would set them up for the remainder of the tournament. Dara took the first 13.11 in a tight opener, Ashley fought back playing some controlled squash to take the 2 nd & 3rd games punishing anything loose with great angles and touch at the front of the court.
The next piece is borrowed from the English Report – Christian Donelan Captain wrote: . With the overall tie now entering into it’s fifth hour, Bowling continued to play positively throughout the 4th game, leaving O’Flynn on the wrong end of some very long rallies and open mouthed to suck in some much needed oxygen when finding himself at 10/5 match ball down. What then followed was perhaps the most enthralling series of rallies between both players, in particular from O’Flynn, who managed to find a second wind to stay in each rally at the same time as doing courts sprints to chase down each shot. O’Flynn was somehow then able to return with interest, Bowling’s searching shots, responding with fine lobs and drops, to extend just beyond the comfortable reach of his opponent and prevent Bowling from delivering the final winner. O’Flynn amazingly saving 5 match balls levelled to 10 all and then takes the lead to 11/10. Bowling then levelled to 11 all with an audacious inch perfect forehand drop shot winner, on the return of serve from the back of the court. This produced a lovely moment in the pause between rallies as both players exchanged a knowing nod and a smile. This was reflective of the mutual respect both players had for each other, in the recognition of the battle they were in and the elevation of the standard of play and accuracy required to now even just winning a point between them. O’Flynn managed to close out the 4th game 13/11 after two further extremely long and high quality rallies, interspersed with a few tense let calls to draw level at 2-2 and shift the momentum back in favour of Ireland. With the time standing at 22:05, it was O’Flynn who maintained the momentum to win the fifth 11/4, completing amazing comeback to win 3-2 and the tie for Ireland, after 87 draining and enthralling minutes. The match produced a standing ovation from a packed gallery that had both sets of supporters on their feet to applaud the two players giving it all for themselves, their team mates and their shirts.
Saturday 6th May
Ireland V Wales: 4.1
Ireland buoyed by their win over England the previous night had to go to battle once again a very talented Welsh team. We welcomed Steve Richardson in at 1 which helped strengthen the team, however the matches against the England were brutal so the players had to step up once again and deliver another performance.
First up was Neal Murphy who was pushed to the pin of collar against a hard working Paul Barrell. This match was end to end and played in a real sporting manner with Murphy digging deep to win 3.1, again it was a great start as we knew this was a potential banana skin fixture where if we dropped points it could count against us later in the tournament. Nick Staunton was next on and Murphy fondly nicknamed both Nick and Rob as the Staunton sisters needed big performances. And the first sister duly did just that, he faced Matthew Crowley another tricky and steady squash player and dug deep to deliver a typical Nick performance. He crafted a win which he can be proud of, as at times he looked like he would keel over but he managed to stay upright and controlled the pace of the game winning well 3.1.
Dara was next on against a talented Jonathan Davis, both Dara and Jonathan son’s played one another in the Welsh Junior Open not so long ago when Dara’s son won out on that occasion but Josh can be proud of his father getting the bragging rights winning comprehensively against Dara 3.0. Jonathan exploited the front of the court dragging Dara front to back forcing the errors and opening up the opportunities to hit some outright winners, showing great touch and accuracy.
So now Wales had pulled one back, Steve was next on and not in any way in the full of his health was pushed in the first 3 games against Paul Johnson moving Steve around with purpose. Steve won the first but knew he was in a battle, Paul stood firm in the second winning 11.9, and the 3rd both traded point for point until Steve pulled away 11.8 and then taking the 4th 11.6. At 3.1 we knew this result was not enough and we needed another 3 points on the board to keep distance between us and England. Up stepped the second Staunton sister and after the previous night’s disappointment against the English Rob truly delivered a big performance against the Welsh character Lloyd Forkan. This match went all the way with Lloyd winning the 1st and the 3rd; Rob stayed with him taking the 2nd and 4th in some gruelling rallies showing all his court skill with some sublime short kills. The 5th was nail biting and as Rob has done countless time before he delivered when it mattered and won 3.2.
Ireland V Scotland 5.0
Last match on was Ireland V Scotland, first on was Andre Davis making his debut for Ireland. At this stage of the event every point was going to matter so each player knew they had to reach a target of 19 points from a possible 20 leaving no margin for error. Andre started with laser like focus and won the first playing crisp squash. Andre had been waiting patiently all weekend to get on court and was duly up for the challenge taking the second game 11.8. While the score line seems like Andre was in control, his opponent Scott dug deep in the third to battle back and unsettle Andre rhythm taking it 11.3. Andre composed himself and found his range once again winning well in the 4th and giving us the start we needed.
John was up next against a full committed Scot John Kynoch, Hurley rested from the morning session was right back into the grove taking the first game 11.6, but the Scotsman refused to buckle and took the second. John soon regained control of the match drawing on his marksmanship skills and won the 3rd and 4th. Next game on was two legends of the game our number ones Steve Richardson and the thunderbolt Peter O’Hara. No one could call this match and Steve needed at least 2 games to ensure Ireland would top the group (providing we won the last 2 matches I might add), no mean feat against the left handed Scotland Swordsman! This was match was pure squash gold, it had drama, it had total squash and it had so much riding on each game that the audience was enthralled in each rally. The English players were keeping a close eye on proceeding as they were beating the Welch so they need Peter to win dropping only one game.
The match started at break neck speed with O’Hara raining down left handed rockets and cross courts nicks, Steve was on the robes but absorbed everything and played to his strengths adjusting to the tempo and pace and won the first. It was tense and each rally was won under the most severe pressure but he drew on his legendary grit and got his first game on the board. Peter bounced back in the second and ratcheted up the pace and won the game. At this stage Steve was sucking in air and working as hard to impose his game on the lively O’Hara, the third was point for point and there was heavy traffic at times with both players engaged with the referee who gave as good as he got. Late in the game O’Hara was particularly upset with a decision and while Steve was preparing to serve, John Hurley turned to me and said that O’Hara would drive this return of serve into the tin which he duly did edging Steve to game ball. Steve won it putting him 2.1 up. The next two sets served up some of the best attacking and defensive squash played all weekend, both players left nothing on the court and O’Hara took the 4th to take us into another nail biting 5th . This game took the match to a different level, both were playing with raw competitiveness and neither were to be denied, again they went point for point as if each were match balls, at 10:10 Steve worked the last two rallies stretching O’Hara just beyond his reach pulling through in a thrilling match 12.10.
Ireland had secured the overall win with Steve’s epic performance, so it was Murphy on next aiming to make it the perfect weekend searching for his third win. He did so in style overcoming the even battling Blair McKenzie 3.0 signing off a great weekends work. Last on court was O’Flynn who only needing two games to secure and retain the overall title. He was determined to make up for his Welsh performance earlier that day and began with intent winning the first 11.2. So the message was clear from the team, let’s go and win this from start to finish and he went onto win the second and sign off the third with a backhand cross court nick!
This gave Ireland the overall win edging out England by a single point so up next were the champagne celebrations, Murphy’s customary speech, the Staunton’s silky smooth fashion style, the English banter and of course the rendition of the Wild Rover where the rest of the Irish joined us in full voice.
Special mention to Andre who earned his first cap and had a 100% record, to our captain John Hurley who managed to win by 2 points and then hopped on an early flight back to Cork to manage a hurling match where he ended up losing by 2 points! To Steve (Trotsky) who under the weather managed to find a second gear when it mattered most but hey no surprises there, to Murphy who should be speech writing for Donald Trump, to the Staunton’s who not only add colour to any event but deliver on court when required and to O ‘Flynn who left it late to edge out our English friends. Finally to Ciaran Roche for his support during the season and to David Ayerst who is on the road to recovery and hope to see him back on court soon.
Dara O’Flynn, May 2017
Irish Sport HQ
Sport Ireland Campus