The opening weekend of September saw the annual test match between Ireland and Great Britain contested in Cheltenham Croquet club, which simultaneously hosted the British National Golf Croquet Double Championships.
The Irish team, captained by Danny Johnston, arrived with one substitution enforced by injury; Evan Newall stepping in at the 11th hour to replace Nathaniel Healy at no 6. The match began as always with 1 round of doubles, followed by two rounds of singles (the first round seeing seeds cross ie. 1v2, 3v 4 etc).
The doubles ended 2-1 in GB's favour, a late hit from David Maugham denying the the Irish pair of Williams and Johnston from ending the morning with a second point to add to the one earned by Cunningham and Fitzgerald. Murphy and Newall had also seized the advantage in their match with a neat TP from the former in the first game, but sadly it slipped away with some unprecedented errors.
With Ireland in touch, the crossed singles began. The round was not completed that day, and Ireland ended the day 5-1 down with 3 matches unfinished. Johnston fell quickly to Maugham despite creating chances for himself, gifting the innings back by croqueting the strikers ball off the lawn in either game. Murphy raced out of the blocks vs Evans, but was quickly pegged back as the Englishman recovered his composure and finished out 2 triple peels in quick succession. Finally, Brown of GB claimed revenge on Cunningham for his defeat in the Home Internationals earlier this year. The unfinished matches included a fight back to 1-1 from Fitzgerald with a gutsy TPO in the second vs the newcomer Fisher, a 30yard hit and finish from Williams to win otp (followed by pegging down game 2) and a desperately tight game which went against Newall who couldn't quite put away Walters.
So on Day 2 the Irish team found themselves in an all too familiar position of having a lot of work to do to force themselves back into contention. A few early singles wins were a necessity if Ireland were to come out on top.
However, this proved to be beyond them on this occasion as chances were let slip and innings wasted once again. In the top match, Williams tussled with Maugham in a repeat of the Northern Championship final from the week before. Some uncharacteristic lapses allowed the GB captain to take maximum advantage and quickly defeat the top Irishman. Johnston repeated his Home Internationals battle with Wilkinson, winning the first game with a neat TP before allowing errors to slip in and gifting the second game to his British opponent. The third tense game went all the way, Johnston embarking on a QP to win after some exchanges. His rush to penult and the straight 4-back peel was a touch too strong and he had to settle for a leave. After several refusals, Wilkinson girded himself, hit and finished a tight game +4. Evans continued his form and defeated Cunningham in short time while Brown defeated Murphy signalling the end of the Irish challenge. Newall performed admirably and was unfortunate to lose -5, -5 to the GB no 6 (Fisher) who hit very at crucial junctures. Fitzgerald fought back to take his match against Walter to 1-1 before time was called on the match. Williams completed his round 2 match with Wilkinson with a win, leaving the score at 10-2 with 3 matches unfinished.
Cheltenham Croquet club was excellent as always, with the lawns provinding a good challenge condition, and the GB team generous hosts.
Another chance let slip by the Irish team, a serious revisit to the drawing board is required for the return fixture in 12 months time.
Fisher & Maugham beat Johnston & Williams +9 -26tp(W) +4
Evans & Wilkinson lost Cunningham & Fitzgerald +17tp(E) -13tpo(C) -17tp(C)
Brown & Walters beat Newell & Murphy -8tp(M) +21 +26tp(B)
D Maugham beat D Johnston +26tp +25tp
R Wilkinson lost to S Williams -14otp -15
M Evans beat K Murphy +17tp +26tp
R Brown beat E Cunningham +26 +15tp
D Walters unf E Newell +4
H Fisher unf P Fitzgerald +26tp -12tpo
D Maugham beat S Williams +25tp +23tp
R Wilkinson beat D Johnston -17tp +10 +4
M Evans beat E Cunningham +26tp +26tp
R Brown beat K Murphy +5 +23
D Walters unf P Fitzgerald +13 -10
H Fisher beat E Newell +5 +5
Final Result 10-2