As some of you might know, over the last years a PSA and WISPA event often accompanied the Leinster Open, and I am sure many players appreciated being able to watch professionals at play. This year, unfortunately, there was no professional event, but the quality of squash on finals day was very high anyway, and I enjoyed both A-finals as much as any professional finals I have seen recently.
Ciara Maloney started proceedings on the show court, beating Claire O’Neill in a repeat of the Munster Open final, and therewith claiming third place. In parallel Stevie Richardson beat hard-hitting Nigel Peyton on court 2, winning 3:1. Like I said in an earlier post, I don’t think I have ever seen Stevie victim of an upset, and once again he withstood Peyton’s onslaught of hard short kills, in the first three games, and then took the fourth game easily.
Since I hadn’t managed to see any of the women’s games throughout the weekend I made a point of watching the women’s finals between Zoe Hall and Tanya Owens. Since I am not as familiar with Irish women’s squash as with men’s, I wasn’t sure who was the favourite, but both had 3:0 wins in the semis and I had watched both play before, and I expected an evenly contested match. And from the outset the match was marked by plentiful of variations: cross-court lobs, trickle boasts, cross-court drops, and deft killers form the backcourt. Add to that good mobility by both women, and you have a plethora of entertaining rallies. Zoe took the first and Tanya was up in the second, holding two game balls. But Zoe battled back and took the second in a tie-break, leaving Tanya with plenty of work in the third. Zoe has a delightful lob serve form her forehand, which troubled Tanya all day, and when Tanya hit an almost perfect cross-court lob at 6:4 in game three, only for Zoe to return it with a perfect boast into the nick, Tanya must have realised it just wasn’t to be today. And so Zoe wrapped up a tight 3:0 win, taking the Leinster Open title.
Arthur Gaskin and Derek Ryan have played each other plenty of times, and while Ryan used to have the upper hand on his younger compatriot, it’s been Gaskin who lately has been winning all matches. With Derek having to run the tournament as well, I expected a short favour in favour of Arthur, though I do recall players commenting that Derek has had plenty of hard matches over recent months in the Squash Legends series, a good preparation when facing players of Gaskin calibre.
Gaskin started on the front foot and eased to a comfortable lead, though half way into the first Ryan started finding his shots. Too little too late and Gaskin took the first. Game two was closer and even though Gaskin held two game balls, it was Derek who took the game in the tie-break. Arthur had initially been tormenting Derek with plenty of play to the front-court, but now Derek was in full flow and picking up shots at the front and returning them with interest. Arthur was not happy! Game three, as so often, was the match decider and and you can see the entire game here (12:57mins):
Okay, for those of you not sitting through the entertaining game three: Arthur won it coming back form 3:7 down, and then tied the fourth up by a larger margin. In any case, it was a great match featuring plenty of fantastic shots, great court coverage and pick-ups, occasional discussions with the referees, and a thoroughly entertained crowd. (Dan Zilic)