Sean Conroy and Bryan Byrne upset the pros in Irish Open!

Sean Conroy, one of two Irish heroes on Monday

The two qualifying round of the Cannon Kirk Homes Irish Open 2014 began on Monday at 2pm in Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club. Professionals in both the men and women events battle it out for the eight open spaces in the main draw, with some local players mixed in. Now normally the locals have a tough time playing full-time professionals, oftentimes not used to the pace and skill level professional players have to offer. This was true for the women: neither Griffin Gilanders, nor Ciara Moloney, Fiona Power or Jody Hannon were able to trouble their opponents, all losing out in less than twenty minutes each. As a matter of fact: of seven matches, only one crossed the twenty minute mark.

The men’s event was a different story though, with Sean Conroy, currently ranked 261 in the world and playing his first year on the professional tour, beating seasoned pro Jakob Dirnberger (world number 220, Austria) in straight games.

The rallies at the beginning of each game were really tough, but luckily I was able to keep the pressure up, and Jakob tired slightly towards the end of each game. I am really delighted, especially since I was a bit disappointed with my performance in the qualifying round last week in Galway, where I lost to Anthony Brindle 3:1.

Sean faces the highest ranked player in the qualifying event, Douglas Kempsell of Scotland, the world number 125.

I have never played him gut he looks like a very strong and steady player. But I hope I can repeat today’s perfomance with some good local support!

Sean kicks proceedings off tomorrow at 2pm on Fitzwilliam’s center court. Connor O’Hare, who recently qualified for the Irish national team for the European Team Championships, showed a gritty performance against Belgain Jan vd Herrewegen, but ultimated lost 0:3, despite extending two games to tie-breaks.

Last on court was Bryan Byrne, who will have been very happy beating Englishman Reuben Phillips, world number 132, by three games to two. Bryan has had some busy squash days recently: he played the qualifying event in Galways, as well as the Irish tour event (where he finished second to John Rooney). Inbetween he had some quality training sessions with Irish number one Arthur Gaskin that seem to have paid off, for what amounts to one of Bryan’s best wins in recent times. Byrne, also a national team player, faces de Mulder of Belgium tomorrow, who won a thrilling yet borderline ugly encounter against Joe Green of England, also 3:2.

Men and women kick off tomorrow at 2pm – fingers crossed that one of the Irish lads can repeat today’s heroics and qualify for the main draw! Dan Z.