Carrickmines and Newbridge House clubs held successful qualification weekends earlier in the month, and last weekend the qualifiers joined the strong field of ranking pre-qualifiers, including Charlie von Schmieder, the only person to cross water to play this year. Conor Broderick made a welcome return.
Nicola Kelly made a strong showing, taking Simon Williams to hoop 13, but her strong play in her other group games was not rewarded with a win. Alan Looney confirmed his reputation as a dangerous draw by beating Evan Newell in the quarter-finals, only to encounter Patsy Fitzgerald, seven-time holder of this title, who did not drop a game on his way to the final.
In the other semi-final match, Mark Stephens who had earlier eliminated Simon, took three games to dispose of Charlie, dropping the first game 5-7.
The Handicap Doubles for the Maggie Cup did not attract the strong entry of the last few years. After some late withdrawals, only four pairs took part, each playing all the others and the two best pairs then playing a final. In this game, Nicola Kelly and Peter Galbraith beat Sylvia Briggs and Padraig Thornton. I believe that the fairly strong field all thought they were going to get to the final stages and would not have time for doubles. In the event, Sunday was so wet that most players preferred to watch the final than play their minor-place play-offs, except for Charlie, who beat Alan in straight games for third place.
And the final was well worth the watching: five full games of World-class hitting, manoeuvring, dogged contention and sparkling invention between two in-form internationals, that put the rest of the play, and all previous finals, in the shade. In the last, Patsy acquired a lead after Mark clanged hoop six from straight in front, having ‘won’ it in a tremendous battle, and unfortunately rushed Patsy’s ball through hoop seven shortly afterwards! Patsy did not relax the pressure, and Mark’s rearguard fight came to an end at hoop eleven.
Carrickmines lawns were fast when the weather was dry, the clubhouse was warm when it was wet, a delivery of homemade sushi enhanced the Sunday lunch, and the deficiencies of the management were mercifully eclipsed by a display of skill that augurs well for the Irish team tour of New Zealand next January.
C.S. von Schmieder bt C. Broderick 7/6, 7/5
M. Stephens bt S. Williams 7/6, 7/5
A. Looney bt E. Newell 5/7, 7/3/, 7/5
P. Fitzgerald bt R. O’Donoghue 7/2, 7/3
Stephens bt von Schmieder 5/7, 7/5, 7/5
Fitzgerald bt Looney 7/3, 7/4
Fitzgerald bt Stephens 7/6, 6/7, 5/7, 7/4, 7/4