The third and final day of the Co. Dublin championships in Association Croquet. An exhibition of quality in a society cast adrift in mediocrity. The weather was muggy, Las Vegas-style humidity but dry conditions underfoot to facilitate a smooth ball strike.
In the Phantom Trophy, fir gnó (business men) Richard Whelan and Tony Allwright went head-to-head with some majestic play that would not look out of place in the blue riband championship proper. Whelan took the bragging rights by 11 hoops to 7. Allwright was soon re-born with a victory agin Ann Woulfe-Flanagan. Such is her croquet nous, any win over A W-F must be deeply treasured.
Alan Looney's 19-18 win over Russell Harris was evidence of croquet scholasticism practically applied in an environment conducive to excellence. Championship victories are veritable gemstones in a sporting world increasingly built on the black liquid gold of Arabia.
In the Sheila Webb Cup (plate), Sheilagh Glennane was too strong for Padraig Thornton (11-2). The Dalkey native took consolation in some magnificent post-match photographic exploits.
Simon Williams is a relationship expert when it comes to soil husbandry meeting lawn midwifery. A baize-like surface greets all open entrants. Regular Carrickminders enjoy artificial red clay in tennis and US Open- style indoor acrylic hard courts. In terms of private club privilege, visitors really feel a sense of "Welcome to the big leagues."
Come and delight in facilities that Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink would call a top, top, top club. The Dutch frontman deemed his former paymasters Chelsea Football Club as merely a top, top club. As a current Herbert Parker and former Carrickminder, I view the Irish croquet scene as a great untapped source of joy for muintir na hÉireann (the people of Ireland). Process drives outcome. This much we know. To get people excirah and delirah about the game, we have to show them the game. Jump shots. Rolls. The full caboodle.
The denouement to the tournament saw the completion of block play games today. The cultured croquet of former Uachtaráin Carraigh Mhaighinn, Alan Looney, versus schoolmaster supreme, Russell Harris. The latter is a Newcastle player of some repute. Championship croquet seems to bring out the best in people, it is very much the AIB of top level sport. Looney ended up taking the 'W' - his form remains strong as squeaky bum time enfolds.
There is an expression in rugby football, "hammer the hammer". Essentially, it entails nullifying the threat of the opposition's most potent ball carrier via a sterling defensive effort featuring double and triple tackles. For the gargantuan Aussie Will Skelton in Leinster's La Rochelle defeat, read Simon Williams. Attempting to impede his progress today was Danny Johnston. The latter has captured the most coveted trophies on offer in this 32- county game we adore. Williams has also supped from the chalice of victory, a Tom Bradyesque icon in Hall of Fame territory. This morning, the two men went to war on the lawns. Neutrals were blessed to watch a Johnston victory by 26 hoops to 2. The hypertrophied pipette man has the deft touch of a Parisian sous-chef. Would that Kildare Street be stocked with persons of such character.
In mid-afternoon, drama on lawn 2 with Nathaniel Healy's angled hoop attempt on two-back sticking in the jaws versus the groundsman par excellence de nos jours. Williams subsequently missed a double target via a 4 yard roquet attempt from A-baulk. Play continued with both men intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Healy approached Rover like a tentative debutante. A leviathan of the game revealing a fragility that chimes with Daftpunk's belter of a tune: "Human After All." Williams won out in the end, a post-prandial vin blanc helping him to a +3 tp triumph. Healy lamented what could have been. His post-match dissection as honest as anything one could hear in a croquet confessional.
Martin Gilmartin's match-up vs Karen Davidson Perrins in the New Mirabeau Trophy was one of composure versus technical flourish. Making hoops via epic break-building; I think it's what we all want. Gilmartin won out by 12 hoops to 11.
Anne-Marie McGowan faced-off with Terence Woulfe Flanagan in a match that featured much savoir-faire comprising croquet's fundamentals, all the while executed superbly. Carol Dweck champions the growth mindset for life-long learning. This pair will continue to get better and better as the Augustan championship season approaches. 19-13 to McGowan there.
Block play aplenty as final group placings were thrashed out. A cluiche ceannais (final) awaiting lucky competitors. In truth however, their placings were hard-won.
Phantom Trophy singles wins for Mark McCann and Ann Woulfe-Flanagan bookended a weekend of remarkable croquet.
As we go to press, the Championship end game featuring a Greig-Johnston final hangs tantalizingly from a stalactite of guaranteed quality.
To check out who has won what, go to the live stream on croquetscores.com for the full results list.