They were sent like a quasi-active service unit to Blighty. Not for them Marxist guff drenched in fertiliser, nitroglycerine, sugar and ball-bearings but a compassionate croquet philosophy intent on annexing silverware in a European Championship field of pure pedigree. Talk of a sea border had been abandoned back at Larne together with the protocol houha and confiscated cans of McEwan's lager.
Robert O'Donoghue embarked on his European Golf Croquet Championship campaign in Budley on Thursday morning with a steady winter campaign behind him. The Advent season saw him regularly lock horns with Simon Williams on the baize surface that make the famed Carrickmines Croquet & Lawn Tennis Club on Glenamuck Road a quite magical place. A December 24th trouncing of the bearded one led RO'D to contemplate major honours and a place in the pantheon.
Karl Murphy comes from that school of nomenclature that gave the world DJ Kat and Kris Kristofferson. In terms of talent, his stellar prowess is evocative of Manny Ramirez, the Boston Red Sox legend who made home base at Fenway Park a quite splendid finishing point for his weekly diamond-shaped canters.
Mark Stephens has a game many have sought to emulate. That includes bluffers and duffers but also bona fide hoop merchants who have withstood the midday heat of a Cairo championship Sunday.
Early doors in Block A and Karl Murphy was running hoops with the nonchalance of a recidivist tax defaulter versus Norwegian iceman, Trond Jansen. O'Murchú's partner black ball went off lawn north of half way with blue still on one. Having made the opening hoop off blue, he then drained an outrageously good angled hoop from the western boundary on half way. Bystanders looked like they'd been hit in the collective nutsack by a 5% annual GDP hit for the foreseeable via the promises of a rotund albino-haired snake oil salesman. Murphy went on to win those first two games 7-3 and 7-2 in his Block A opener.
Daniel Studerus of Switzerland saw off "Roberts"(croquetscores.com) O'Donoghue by 2 games to 1. Not quite a case of "There's only 2 Andy Goram's", rather just a typo. The Swiss sharpshooter has a game that commands respect. In a previous life, he saw off the challenge of Evan Newell with some outrageously good croquet that left the Meath horseman standing in a corner discussing the construction of a new dwelling or some such.
Karl Murphy would later account for Latvia's Tommas Freimanis by 2 games to 1. Karl's display exhausted all the superlatives in this scribe's copy notebook. The watching Harry Redknapp, once cruelly derided as a 'wheeler and dealer ' in the managerial ball game, opined Karl's performance as "triffic." The two men would later dine on jellied eel in an East End eaterie.
Mark Stephens overcame the challenge of Switzerland's Ian Sexton with some beautiful croquet strokes. The greatest of us Irish have contributed handsomely on away assignments. Bernardo O'Higgins famously liberated Chile from Spanish rule and Mark Stephens would dispatch Lars Boman this afternoon with a 2 game to 1 winning margin in Block C. The Finn will lament the denouement as a resurgent Stephens took the lámh in uachtar(upper hand) with a hoop 12 power play that was evocative of a young Reggie Leonard.
A great start by the lads with more to come.