An exhortation unto muintir na hÉireann (the people of Ireland) resulted in a trio of young hotshots presenting their credentials to represent our nation in the 2022 ERC European Golf Croquet Championship. Having received the sporting imprimatur from the CAI's cognoscenti, Mssrs Murphy, O'Donoghue and Stephens stood to attention as the government Learjet taxi'd up at Baldonnell to whisk them to Budley. A teary Alan Looney invoked Big Jack from the tarmac: "Téigh agus buaigh é" (go and compete). It was known that the triumvirate possessed special qualities, of the type visible under the petri dish when Danny Johnston cooks up a croquet cocktail to bring about a championship tilt. Young Stephens swilled a hip flask libation of vitamins, herbs and cidona.
Day 2 started with a bang this morning as a young Lorna Dewar saw off the challenge of Karl Murphy with a two nil win in Block A. Murphy did produce what for many was the match highlight, an outrageous clearance of his oppo's yellow ball stationed 1 yard north of hoop 7 from a downtown backs-to-the-wall position that had home hacks penning his croquet obituary. How he did it we will never know. When questioned, he trotted out the Kevin Costner TinCup mantra: "Grip it and rip it !" Dewar herself is one of the best players north of Hadrian's Wall. With championship contenders like England's Stephen Mulliner in the mix this week, the eventual winner will have truly earned the victory.
Mark Stephens would succumb to Jose Riva in a match rich in pure croquet theatre. The Spaniard went on the offensive early doors, his efforts largely repelled by the young Irishman whose defensive play is evocative of the Nugget, Steve Davis.
Robert O'Donoghue met his match in England's Stuart Smith. The measured play of the home player points to the upturn in the fortunes of the national game here. A public attracted by the marriage of lush green turf - cultivated lovingly by ever-willing agronomists in the production of smooth playing surfaces; post-game sustenance by way of succulent pies; the finest home country ales and mallets hewn from the same ecumenical ash that sets Limerick's hurlers apart of a Semple Stadium Sunday. England possesses many fine players, they boast that heady mix of competitive spirit and strategic overreach that resulted in an empire coming apart in jockstrapped dystrophy. We are all fallible - Papa Francesco apart, of course. What foibles we carry within, allied to our innate strengths come together to produce impactful behaviour. As former Irish rugby supremo, Eddie 'Dagger' O'Sullivan once intoned: "It all goes in the hopper." The Irish will be looking to improve, to demonstrate what Golda Meir (ex Israeli PM) might have called 'front foot defending.' Hit and avoid getting hit. A maxim of the sweet science with pugilism imparting lessons unto our malletmen - particularly from multi-garlanded fast-fisted technicians drawn from mná na hÉireann. ( the women of Ireland).