Scotland v. Ireland
Friday evening in Dublin at the prestigious Fitzwilliam club and we were up against the home team of Ireland. John Kynoch led us out at number 5 against John Fasenfeld and got off to his customary slow start, going 0-1 down. However, once he got a feel for the court and his opponents style of play, he started to gain the upper hand and pulled away to win the match 3-1. A great start – Scotland 1, Ireland 0.
Next on was Paul Jenkins at number 3 against Brian Lawler. Paul was like a coiled spring and came out firing on all cylinders to quickly take the first game. He had to work a little harder in the 2nd, but with some great attacking play, took that as well to go 2-0 up. Paul took an early lead in the 3rd, but Brian is no mug and clawed his way back into the game. Both players kept us on the edge of our seats as the game swung back and forth, going to extra time before Paul eventually closed it out 16-14 and things were looking good – Scotland 2, Ireland 0.
Captain Angus Woodward was on next at number 1 against former world number 7, Derek Ryan. As you would imagine, Derek is a class act and this was always going to be a tough one for Angus. He did put up a spirited fight with some entertaining rallies, but it was easy to see why Derek is Ireland’s most capped player and the result was never in doubt, 3-0 to Derek. Scotland 2, Ireland 1.
The 4th string tie looked like it could be the crunch match with Douglas Emery taking on Jonathan Simpson and it did not fail to live up to expectations. Douglas took the 1st game in extra time, 13-11 and that set the tone for the match, with neither player giving an inch. A brilliantly entertaining match which swung back and forth, eventually going to a 5th game. The last game was nip and tuck all the way – giving every last ounce of energy and buoyed on by a vocal Scottish support, Douglas pulled through to win the game 11-9 to give Scotland an unassailable lead. Scotland 3, Ireland 1.
With every game counting, the last match of the night was by no means a dead rubber. Peter Buchan versus Dara O’Flynn in the number 2 string. As always, Peter gave it his all, but was up against a very sharp and determined Dara. Despite a spirited performance in which he almost took the 3rd game, Peter went down 3-0.
A great team effort though to beat Ireland on their home turf – final result – Scotland 3, Ireland 2. In the other match of the evening, England had comfortably beaten Wales 5-0.
Scotland v. England
On to Saturday morning and what we knew would be our biggest test against England. First up in the number 5 string was Davy Lindsay against Andrew Murray – the squash player, not that other guy that plays tennis. Davy was fired up for this one, maybe too much, as he didn’t seem to settle and lost the first 11-3. A much better performance in the 2nd, which was nip and tuck most of the way until Andrew pulled away to win it 11-8. Davy continued to keep the pace high with his attacking game and perseverance paid off as he took the game 11-8. The resurgence was short lived though, as his opponent took the pace out of the game with some deft touches and closed out the match 3-1. Scotland 0, England 1.
Next up was Jenko aka Paul Jenkins at number 3 against Nick Brown. Both players had a similar, attacking style of play, which made for a very entertaining match. Paul took the first 11-8 and was well up in the 2nd as his opponent was struggling to cope with his sublime volley drops on both sides. A lapse in concentration let Nick back in and he went on to win the game 14-12. Paul refocused and continued to attack beautifully to take the 3rd 11-7 for a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately, a combination of Paul not keeping up the accuracy of the first three games and Nick’s dogged determination meant Paul lost the next two games and the match 2-3. Scotland 0, England 2.
Next on court in the number 1 string match were the two captains, Angus Woodward versus Jonathan Gliddon. Playing against the England number 1 is never easy, but Angus took an attacking game to Jonathan and surprised him by taking the first 11-8. The 2nd was an equally close battle, this time Jonathan getting the upper hand to level at 1-1. This was turning out to be a great match and the 3rd game went to extra time, with Jonathan just sneaking it 12-10. Angus seemed dead on his feet, but somehow managed to fight back and win the 4th 11-8, taking the match to a deciding game. In the 5th, Angus continued to frustrate Jonathan with his attacking style of play and pulled off an unexpected 3-2 win to the delight of the vocal Scottish contingent. Scotland 1, England 2.
The fourth string match saw Douglas Emery take on Stuart Summers. Douglas is one tough competitor and we had high hopes of another upset. The first game was nip and tuck all the way, with Stuart just edging it in extra time, 12-10. The 2nd was a similarly tight affair with, unfortunately, the same outcome as Stuart went 2-0 up. Douglas gave everything in the 3rd and left nothing on court, but after losing a game ball, eventually succumbed in extra time 12-14. Scotland 1, England 3.
Last match of the morning session saw Peter Buchan take on the current British Open 045’s champion, Andrew Cross, so we knew this would be another tall order to eke out a win. Peter put up a spirited fight and there was not much in each game, but Andrew just had that little bit extra at the end of each game and closed out the match 3-0.
A spirited performance from everyone and with Paul and Douglas’s matches being so tight, the overall result could have swung our way, but it was not to be. Scotland 1, England 4. In the other morning match, Ireland comfortably beat Wales 5-0.
Scotland v Wales
Scotland had a chance to finish 2nd if we could beat Wales and get enough points to stay in front of Ireland, so this was a big match for everyone.
First on court in the number 5 string was Davy against Marcus Thomas. This was a battle of the big hitters and proved to be a very close match up. Marcus edged the first 11-9 before Davy levelled things, taking the 2nd 11-8. The 3rd proved to be the turning point, with the game evenly balanced all the way, but it was Marcus who got the upper hand to take it in extra time, 12-10. Davy still had plenty of fight in him and the 4th was again nip and tuck, before Marcus just managed to hang on and take the game and the match 3-1. Wales 1, Scotland 0.
Next up was Jenko against Ian Fenner-Evans in the number 3 string match. Paul continued with the accurate, attacking play he had shown in the first two matches and although he had to fight hard to take the first game 11-9, he completely dominated the next two 11-2, 11-4 to level things up for Scotland. Scotland 1, Wales 1.
In the number 1 string match it was Angus up against Nick Dyer. Angus seemed to be suffering from his exertions in the morning match as he struggled with the pace and lost the first 11-3. No need to panic yet though as Angus found his legs and a little more accuracy to take the next two games 11-7, 11-6 for a 2-1 lead, but the match was far from over. The 4th went back and forth, before Nick edged ahead to take the game 11-8 and take it to a fifth. By now Angus’s legs had gone and despite fighting all the way, Nick just had too much left in the tank for him and took the game 11-5 for a 3-2 win that put Wales in front again. Scotland 1, Wales 2.
The 4th string match saw John take on Neil Rawlings, with everything to play for. John got off to his customary slow start again, losing the first 11-8. We knew not to worry, but John had us a little concerned when he also lost the 2nd by the same 11-8 margin. By the 3rd, John sensed Neil was starting to tire and worked him hard with his deceptive boasts and accurate length – 11-3 to John. The 4th followed a similar pattern, with John levelling the match at 2-2 to take it to a decider. Both players had their respective teams on the edge of their seats as the early points were shared, but John continued to have the edge and pulled away to take the game 11-7 and level it up again for Scotland. Scotland 2, Wales 2.
So it all came down to the last match with Peter playing Jon Ashton in the number 2 string. Peter needed to win to give Scotland 2nd place and as always, he came out fighting. The first swung this way and that, with some unbelievable retrieving from Jon it went to extra time, with Jon just edging it 12-10. That would prove to be the story of the match – Peter playing some great squash, but Jon retrieving incredibly well to just keep his nose in front as he took the next game 11-9. It was the same pattern in the 3rd and even the vocal Scottish support could not help Peter get back into the match as he lost the game 11-8.
So near and yet so far. Scotland 2, Wales 3.
England beat Ireland 3-2 in the other afternoon match.
- England 48
- Ireland 32
- Scotland 27
- Wales 21
All of the matches over the two days were played in great spirit and there was some fantastic squash on display. Despite missing out so narrowly on 2nd place, every single match was hard fought and all of the Scottish boys should be proud of the way they played and battled for every last point – we’ll get them next year!
The Home Internationals for Ladies O45, Men O45 and Men O65 were held in Dublin on 28/29 April at the superb Fitzwilliam Club.
The three Scottish Teams all met at the Fitzwilliam Club for practice and team and group photographs before the first matches against Ireland started.
Having won the title in 2016 the Men O65 were looking forward to a strong challenge from the other Home Nations. The Scottish Team was John Rae, Jim Dougal (Captain), Ian Ross, Dave Sturman, Alex Allan and Emilio Fazzi.
The Scottish Team for the first match in team order was John Rae, Jim Dougal, Ian Ross, Dave Sturman and Alex Allan. The order of play for the Home Internationals is 5, 3, 1, 4, and 2.
Alex Allan played the first match against Robert Peel. Alex started confidently and won the first game 9/6. He continued to play well and dominated the T and played some excellent winning boasts. Alex got us off to great start with a 3/0 win.
In the second match Ian Ross played John Donovan. The first two games were tight – Ian won the first 9/7 and had to fight back from 3/7 and save a game ball before winning the second game 10/9. He quickly closed out the third game and won the match 3/0.
Both teams were looking forward to the match between David Gotto, one of the greatest age group players and our own in-form John Rae. John started nervously and David won the first game 9/5. The second game was very competitive, with both players playing well. There was a good mixture of long rallies and some excellent winning drop shots by both players. John won a long game 10/9. John was the stronger and fitter player and closed out the match 3/1 – an excellent win for John and gave us a match winning 3/0 lead.
The fourth match was between Dave Sturman and the wily Seamus Daly.
Dave started strongly and comfortably won the first two games. Seamus found his touch in the third game and played a number of winning drop shots and won the game 9/4. Dave fought back well and took command of the fourth game and closed the match out 3/1.
Jim Dougal played Martin Maher in the final match. Jim, still suffering from a shoulder injury, started slowly and Martin won the first game. Jim fought back, his ‘Dougal touch’ returned and he won the game. The next two games were very competitive but Jim’s good match play ensured a 3/1 victory.
Clearly a fantastic result for Scotland by 18/3 – all games count plus 5 points for a win.
In the other O65 match England beat Ireland by 3 matches to 2 with an overall score of 15/6.
This was the huge match against the ‘Auld Enemy’ – the winner of this match would be in a strong position to win the tournament. The Scottish team was John Rae, Jim Dougal, Ian Ross, Dave Sturman and Emilio Fazzi.
The first match was between Emilio Fazzi and Neil Nightingale – the first match for both players. Both players started nervously but Neil established an early lead and comfortably won the first game. Emilio played better in the second and third games – both games were very competitive but Neil narrowly won both games and won 3/0.
In the second match Ian Ross played Peter Smith. Ian got off to a flying start and won the first game 9/0. Peter found his form in the second game and took an early lead but Ian fought back to level at 8/8 but Peter won the game to level the match 1/1. The third and fourth games were very competitive but Peter won the games 9/7, 9/6 and the match 3/1 and gave England a 2/0 lead.
Having lost the first two matches John Rae had to beat Ian Graham to keep the match alive. In a tight but nervous first game Ian won the first 9/4. However John fought back strongly and demonstrated his superior fitness and good match play and comfortably won the next three games – another excellent performance.
The fourth match was between Dave Sturman and John Hithersay – again Dave had to beat John to keep the match alive. This was a very exciting match which both players had chances to win. Dave won a tight first game 9/7 but John fought back strongly to win the second 9/7 and the third 9/0 to establish a 2/1 lead. However John was starting to tire and Dave took control and won the fourth game and level the match at 2/2. The final game was very close but with Dave leading 6/5 and John very tired, Dave looked the likely winner. However John called on all his reserves and closed the match out 9/6 and gave England a match winning 3/1 lead.
The final match was between Jim Dougal and Terry Belshaw. Terry started strongly and convincingly won the first two games. Despite his shoulder injury Jim fought back strongly – serving and returning well and playing numerous winning drops – and won the third and fourth games to level the match at 2/2. Terry regained his composure and took control and won the final game and the match 3/2.
This was a very good 16/8 (4/1) victory for England.
In the other O65 match Ireland beat Wales by 3 matches to 2 with an overall score of 15/8.
After the disappointing result in the morning we had to focus on the match against Wales and hope that Ireland could beat England.
Emilio Fazzi played Geoff Parrett in the first match. The first game was very close and was won by Geoff. However Emilio fought back well and comfortably won the next two games to lead 2/1. Geoff then mounted a comeback and won the fourth game and level the match at 2/2. Emilio played very well and won the fifth game 9/4 to give us a good start.
Ian Ross played Richard Ford next. Ian won a tight first game but then played well and took control of the match and won 3/0.
John Rae played Richard Packman in the battle of the No 1s. Richard was a tough competitor having beaten Ian Graham, the England No 1. John started strongly and confidently and won the first game 9/3. He continued his good form and won the next two games and the match 3/0. This gave us a match winning 3/0 lead. Having won all three matches John Rae clearly demonstrated that he was the outstanding player in the O65 Home Internationals.
Alex Allan played Peter Sneed and Peter won a close first game 9/6. Peter comfortably won the next game to take a 2/0 lead. Alex was given some strong advice and motivation by team mates at the end of the second game. Alex fought back well and won the third game 9/6. Following more encouragement Alex took control of the match and comfortably won the fourth and fifth games to win the match 3/2 – a spirited performance by Alex.
In the final match Jim Dougal played Clive Morgan. In a tight first game the lead changed hands several times before Clive won the game 10/8. Jim fought back and played some excellent touch shots and comfortably won the next two games. During the fourth game Clive unfortunately pulled a muscle and despite trying to play on he had to retire and Jim therefore won the match 3/1.
This was clearly a very good result for Scotland 18/5 and gave us a total score of 44 points.
There was some encouraging news for Scotland in the ongoing England Ireland match. England comfortably won the first match but Ireland had won the next two matches by 3/2. England therefore needed to win the last two matches to beat Scotland. In the fourth match Ireland won the first game but lost the match 3/1. In the final match England comfortably won by 3/0 and the overall match 16/7.
By winning all three matches England deservedly won the title. The final score was England 47 points, Scotland 44 points, Ireland 25 points and Wales 19 points.
It was an excellent weekend in Dublin and Irish Squash (Ciaran Roache) and Fitzwilliam Club deserve great credit for the organisation and excellent hospitality. All three Scottish Teams and their supporters enjoyed the Saturday evening presentation dinner.