A group of the countries top players gathered in Kells last weekend to play some competitive croquet in advance of the Irish Championships in August. The matches were played in the idyllic surroundings of Johnsbrook House on what is probably one of the best lawns in the country. There were six participants, including our host Patsy Fitzgerald who had recovered from the wrist injury that forced him out of the World Team Championships in May.
Day 1 began with a quick doubles game in which Nathaniel Healy and Danny Johnston dispatched Simon Williams and Robert Barklie with a quick Healy triple-peel.
Thereafter singles games commenced, with Barklie falling early to Fitzgerald and Williams falling to Johnston in the possibly the first game in the country to be played under Super-Advanced rules. These rules are an extention of the current advanced rules and are designed to promote more interaction in top-levels games when conditions are easy. Johnston then went on to narrowly defeat Fitzgerald +6otp after Patsy missed a 4 yard roquet at 2-back. Healy beat Barklie in sharp order as Johnston beat the unfortunate Evan Newell +17stp in a thoroughly interactive game with some excellent shooting. Newell was then defeated by the in-form Healy +17 as Williams beat Barklie and Fitzgerald in quick order, the latter played as a super advanced game.
On Day 2 Fitzgerald claimed a game back on Johnston, winning +13tp. He then went on to play a very close super advanced game with Evan Newell, pegging out 2 balls to leave Evan on 3-back vs himself on penultimate. Evan appeared to have done all the hard work, hitting in from 20+ yards and taking off to reasonable position in front of 3-back, but sadly he fluffed his lines and despite some more interactivity Patsy came out the eventual winner. Meanwhile Healy took a fine scalp of Williams with some controlled break play and tight leaves, winning +19. The standard of shooting on the weekend was very high on the very true lawn, and this was exemplified in the Healy- Williams match and the subsequent Williams-Johnston game where Johnston won +16tp in asuper advanced game where only one shot was missed.
On the evening of Day 2 a selection of the Martins arrived from Cavan to get some practice in before the August championships. The handicapper was keeping a keen eye on their progress to avoid excessive banditry from these young players.
Overall it was an excellent weekend and the super advanced rules were met favorably by most of the participants. We were very generously hosted throughout by Patsy and Hazel which made for a relaxed weekend of good croquet. We look forward to the Irish Championships to see if the recently enigmatic Andrew Johnston can win the title for the 3rd year in a row in the face of some increasingly stiff opposition.
Full results: (SA= super advanced)
Johnston bt Williams +10 (SA)
Fitzgerald bt Barklie +18
Healy bt Barklie +26
Johnston bt Fitzgerald +6otp
Johnston bt Newall +17stp (SA)
Healy bt Newall +17
Williams bt Barklie +26
Williams bt Fitgerald +19tp
Johnston bt Healy +23tp
Williams bt Newall +4 (SA)
Healy bt Williams +19 (SA)
Fitzgerald bt Newall +5 (SA)
Fitzgerald bt Johnston +13tp (SA)
Fitzgerald bt Healy +12tp (SA)
Johnston bt Williams +16tp (SA)
Johnston and Healy bt Williams and Barklie +17tp (Healy)