The 2014 World Team Championships Tier 2.1 were kindly hosted by Carrickmines Croquet and Lawn Tennis club between the 12-th and 17th of May. The event consisted of four nations, fielding teams of 4 players, playing a round robin of 2-day Test matches with 2x doubles matches and 4x singles. The Irish team of Simon Williams, Danny Johnston (C), Nathaniel Healy and Patsy Fitzgerald began playing against a Scottish team reduced to three by injury. Ireland eventually came through as comfortable 4-1 winners. In the course of this match Patsy sustained an injury to his wrist playing Campbell Morrison and was replaced by Evan Newall for the subsequent matches.
Ireland next played South Africa in a match for the Maureen Bamford Trophy contested between the two nations. The first day saw the Irish top doubles pair of Williams and Johnston take a quick lead over their South African counterparts Nick Harvey and 4-time AC World Champion Reg Bamford. However this was short lived and the SA pair redressed the balance with an eventful TP from Reg and a TPO win in the third. The Test then balanced on a knife edge, Ireland needing to claim a win in the other doubles to go into the singles 1-1. The match ebbed and flowed heavily, but in the third game Nathaniel and Evan put together a couple of good breaks to put oppo under pressure and Evan eventually finished with a stylish turn to square the match. The singles commenced with Danny quickly beating his opposite number in 2 games. It looked like Simon might claim the scalp of Reg when he approached 1 on a potentially finishing turn in the second. However it was not to be and Reg duly punished Simon's error with 2 quick sextuple peels to level the match once again. The final 2 singles matches were shared, leading to a playoff being required to determine the destination of the Maureen Bamford. The top doubles paired played again and 3 played 4 in the singles ties. The doubles had an air of unpleasant familiarity about it from an Irish point of view, with Simon being TPO'ed leaving Danny starting on 1. He failed to get going from contact but a pivotal mistake by the SA's let Danny in and he was able to convert the chance to a 3-ball break and finish. Nathaniel then steadied himself and played some excellent turns to beat Victor Dladla in his tie winning the match for the Irish.
The final Test was played against the current holders Wales and predicted to be the closest match for the Irish. The fist day saw the doubles points shared meaning it was all to play for in the singles on the final day. Simon and Danny beat Ian Burridge and David Walter in the morning in some eventful games. This left the match at 3-1 to Ireland with 1 win from Nathaniel or Evan to seal the victory and avoid a playoff. Nathaniel battled hard against Chris Williams but ultimately the Welshman's experience saw him through bringing the Test score to 3-2. All Irish eyes fell to lawn 3 where Evan played Garry McElwain. The first game went to the Welsh and it looked like we were heading to a playoff with Evan for 4 and 4-back playing Garry on peg and rover. But somehow Evan kept his claws in the game and in a unique croquet display managed to draw the match level. In the third game, with a short time limit due to the length of the match so far, Garry went round to 4-back and Evan rose to the challenge magnificently by hitting the long lift and taking a ball round. Then followed an interrupted break to peg with his second, before pegging his own ball out in a subsequent turn. This left Garry with a lot to do with only 4 balls on the lawn and Evan went on to win the game on time, taking the match and the Championship for Ireland. South Africa lost to Scotland in their playoff matchand so may be relegated to the tier below with Spain winning promotion to tier 2.1 over Austria.
The Irish team are very proud to have won the match on home soil and very grateful to Carrickmines for letting us use their outstanding facilities. Thanks also must go the CAI for their contributions, to Joe and Anne-Marie McGowen for their generosity throughout the week and hosting of the teams during the match, and finally to all the competitors who traveled and helped make the event the success it was. Photographs to follow, full scores can be obtained on croquetscores.com.
Ireland currently hold the World Team Championship tier 2.1 Trophy, the Maureen Bamford, the Carter Challenge trophy and the Home Internationals trophy.
Photographs at http://croquetireland.com/albums/WorldTeam2014/index.html