While the Irish women’s squash team are playing their third/fourth place play-off at the Women’s Team World Championships in Nimes, France, the Leinster Open 2012 is on in the prestigious Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club this weekend, and as so often, you’ll find the who is who of Irish squash battling it out.
I’m not playing this weekend, but since I live relatively close to Fitz I decided to check out some of this morning’s matches. Due to Dublin having busy Squash leagues and being home to a lot of strong players, the draws are extremely competitive. Yesterday had only seen two matches go against the seeding in the Men’s A: Sean Conroy, the eight seed, lost to Niall Rooney 3:1, and Rory Birthistle (10) overcame Connor O’Hare, recently moved to Dublin and the tournament’s seventh seed, in five games.
First match I saw this morning was young Michael Craig, from up North, beat veteran Dara O’Flynn 3:0, every game finishing 11:6. Dara plays a very tough game, hitting hard and tight and slotting in delightful drop shots, and I thought he’d be too strong for Michael. However, this morning Dara let himself down with a few too many errors, and Michael was able to weather the intensity quite comfortably. Michael also has a delicate hold on his backhand side and generally plays with great oversight and understanding, and on this Saturday morning he was simply too good. He will now face his junior rival Sean Conroy in the next round, Sean having beaten Paul Lenihan comfortably in three.
Next match on my agenda was Steve Richardson against Brian Byrne, fourth against fifth seed. Brian has been the talks of many recent tournaments, oftentimes only being stopped by Ireland’s number one Arthur Gaskin in the finals, while Stevie is rarely one to lose to anyone beneath his seeding. The match started at a very high pace, Brian seeking to volley at every opportunity. The difference between the two players was that when playing at this pace, Stevie was able to control the ball slightly better, while Brian was suffering from his drives occasionally jumping off the side walls. Nonetheless, even when Stevie worked Brian out of his position, he was still able to reach the next shot due to his speed. Nonetheless, Stevie managed to play the last few points of the first two games stronger and took a commanding 2:0 lead, and finished the third 11:4. The scoreline of 3:0 does little justice to what was really a good-quality and tough encounter.
In the other quarter-finals Graeme Stewart had to pull out facing Nigel Peyton. Graeme, who had beaten Nigel’s brother Ronan yesterday, is suffering from a neck injury that left him unable to compete. Derek Ryan, seeded two, beat Rory Birthistle, and is Nigel’s next opponent.
Last game I saw was in the Men’s B, with David Ryan, of Sutton, playing Neal Murphy. It was the first time I’ve seen david following his lengthy injury, and he certainly seems to be back with a vengeance! Neal is a tough competitor and former Irish international, but today David was in great form, with great court coverage and superb back-court game. The rallies were long and intense, but David’s fitness levels are really something for a junior player, and he ran out a clear 3:0 victory.
Unfortunately I missed the ladies’ matches this morning, but the semis will be between Claire O’Neill and Tanya Owens, and Zoe Hall and Ciara Moloney, taking place just about now. (Dan. Z.)