The 2013 Irish Squash season fittingly kicked off with a memorable encounter between two stars of the future: Michael Craig of Ulster and David Ryan of Leinster. Both are 16 years old and are amongst the very top players in their age group in Europe, if not the world. Judging by today’s match, this could shape up to be a great rivalry over the next decade, and it will be intriguing to see how it develops. Today, David Ryan came out on top. He is the more steady of the two, with an intimidating physical side to his powerful game, while Craig plays with some panache! He was 2:0 down and clawed the third game back, but after holding game balls in the fourth, he succumbed in a brutal fourth game tie-break that had the crowd on the edge of their seats. Incidentally, Craig and Ryan played an 80 minute match, which was longer than my match against Sean Conroy (I lost 3:0) and Kevin Moore against Connor O’Hare (Connor won 3:1) put together: we played on the parallel court.
Tomorrow David will be facing Bryan Byrne, who dispatched of Connor O’Shea in three tough games, which Dalibor Panic refereed with help of his fancy IPhone app (see picture). As fit as David is, I do think he’ll be feeling today’s efforts, and Bryan should be experienced enough to exploit any slight jadedness. Other than that, no upsets, though Eoin Ryan had to pull out with a calf injury, therewith giving Nigel Peyton a bye. He might need the day off since he is facing the current Irish national champion: Derek Ryan! Stevie Richardson (facing O’Hare) and Keith Moran (facing Sean Conroy) complete the line-up.
Now, I made sure to talk to my reliable informant and number one Ladies A seed Griffin Gillanders about the ladies draw. Griffin might be facing the current Irish national champion Breanne Flynn in the semis should both get past Niamh Brennan and Claire Staunton respectively, while at the bottom half of the draw Ciara Moloney looks like a likely semi-finalist. Third seed Stephanie Ryan was the only casualty of the day having lost to Laura Mylotte, whose seeding of 14 definitely does not do her justice.
So, a great opening day of the Mount Pleasant Open, this year being run by Henry Gillanders and Aidan Coppinger. As a matter of fact, the Gillanders family makes up over 5% of the tournament population of over 70 players, with Griffin, Henry, Max and Scott all having entered. So far they have won three out of four matches, though two byes were involved! Lets see if they can keep a positive balance by the end of tomorrow.