The Wales Men’s Over 55’s squad (from left to right): Greg Watkins (4), Paul Murphy (6), Gary Hales captain (3), Richard Murphy (2), Mike Logan (5), Jon Evans (1).
Wales v England (4.30pm Friday)
Wales opened the Home Internationals weekend against England. Paul Murphy (5) was making his Squash Masters Home Internationals debut for Wales and played very confidently right from the start. Though the first two games were lost 5/11, 4/11 this belied the closeness of the rallies as Paul played with great patience against his more experienced opponent (Nigel Stiles). In the third game Paul combined his good patience with taking his opportunities, when he created them, to give himself two game balls at 10/9 and again at 11/10. Though both chances were missed Paul battled hard to stay in the game but eventually lost it 13/15 and so the match 0-3. Gary Hales (3) was next on court against Simon Spencer. Simon possibly had some “home advantage” as The Parks Club, Nottingham was once his local club! Gary made a good start but felt a slight muscle strain, when leading 9/7 in the first game, which then restricted his movement to the front of the court. Simon took advantage with the use of boasts and drops and Gary lost 9/11, 5/11, 4/11 (0-3). Gary had picked up the injury the previous week and this reoccurrence would rule him out of the next two matches. At number 1 string Jon Evans was against an “old foe” in Eamonn Price. Jon had been training hard the last few months, without playing many competitive matches, but was competitive in the opening game narrowly losing it 7/11. Sadly, Jon had picked up a chest infection the previous week and though he thought it had cleared completely, Jon was having some breathing issues as he was being made to work extremely hard by the former British champion. Jon struggled to get any foothold in the match and lost the next two games 2/11, 5/11 and so the match 0-3. Mike Logan (4) was always going to find it hard against Peter Gunter, who has played at number 1 string for England in the past! Mike “hit and ran” for all he was worth from start to finish. The 2/11, 6/11, 2/11 score-line possibly did not reflect the enormous amount of effort Mike put into each of the games as every rally was long and hard but Mike unfortunately found himself doing more of the work and so he succumbed 0-3. Though the tie against England was lost there was still the prospect of an intriguing “rematch” between Richard Murphy (2) and Ray Burke, as the two had met a few years back with Ray winning a close “feisty” encounter. The first game was tough and intense with both players sensing this game was an important one to win, as it was going to be a very close match. Richard lost the game 8/11 after initially making a slow start. In the second game Richard again made a poor start but started to work Ray, with his slow boasts and good length. Richard dragged himself back into the game and took it 11/9, much to his opponent’s disappointment. The next game was brutally tough. Ray was hitting the ball even harder than before, both short and long, with his deceptive snap of the wrist, that had Richard twisting and turning all around the court. Ray won this game 11/8 but Richard came out fighting in the fourth game and it was a totally different story! Richard’s patient play (slow boasts, soft tight drops, good length, great retrieving) started to take its effect with Ray starting to snatch at shots and make a few more “unforced errors”. As Richard took the game 11/4 his opponent threw his racket away in frustration! The fifth game was as intense as before. As well as the hard, fast hitting, Ray was now throwing in reverse angles and cross-court volley nicks, more than before, to “bamboozle” Richard. It worked for Ray, as he reached match-ball at 10/7. However, Richard held his nerve, saving the first, then the second, then the third match-ball to reach 10-all. Incredibly, Richard maintained concentration and took the next two points to take the game 12/10 and the match 3-2 in 44 minutes of enthralling squash.
Result: Wales lost to England 1-4 (3/19)
Wales v Scotland (9.30am Saturday)
Matches on Saturday morning started early (9.30am). Scotland were the opposition and the message of the early start had somehow not reached their number 5 (David Sheard), as Paul Murphy was waiting 15 minutes for his opponent to arrive! It was no problem for Paul, who quickly got into the same “groove” he had when playing yesterday against England. Paul was hitting the ball very confidently with good length and width and patiently waiting for his opponent’s mistakes, which consistently appeared during the first two games. Paul won those opening games 11/4 & 11/4 without too many concerns. However, the third game was a tougher ask! David reduced his error count and began to put a little more pressure onto Paul. Paul started making a few too many errors at the front of the court, which amazingly (considering the opening games) led to Paul suddenly finding himself game-ball down! Paul remained calm and restored order by confidently saving the game-ball and taking the game 12/10 and so the match 3-0. Greg Watkins (3) was playing his first match of this weekend, at his home club, against Scotland’s Ian Green! Greg made a storming start by taking the first game 11/6. It was hard work and he had to work even harder in the second game as the rallies were tough and tiring for both players with nothing to separate either player. Both players held game balls before Ian sneaked it 14/12. It was even harder to separate the two in the third game. Greg fought hard to get several game balls again but once again Ian sneaked it 16/14. Unbelievable the fourth game also went to a tie-break and for all the great effort Greg had applied he lost it 10/12. Greg could not have tried any harder as he went down 1-3 in a gruelling 41minutes. Jon Evans (1) was against Scotland’s Paul Jenkins and found himself in trouble right from the start. Anything remotely loose by Jon was punished by Paul’s superb overhead volleys or softest of drop shots, which went for outright winners every-time. After just 18 minutes it was all over, as Paul had won 11/4, 11/6, 11/4 and so the match 3-0. Jon could not have tried harder or done a great deal more against Paul, who was possibly one of the “players of the Tournament”, as he eventually defeated both the England (Eamonn Price) and Irish (Andre Maur) number 1’s during the weekend! With Wales now trailing Scotland 1-2 it was down to Mike Logan (4) to keep Wales in the tie. Mike started with a high paced, hard hitting, opening game against David Legge. David matched Mike with pace but not with accuracy of length and depth and Mike took that first game 11/6. Mike maintained the intensity of shot, accuracy, and his superb retrieving about the court, to take the subsequent games 11/7, 11/6 and so the match 3-0. The tie would therefore be decided by the number 2 players. Richard Murphy was against Colin Grant. This started out very evenly with both players mixing up the play and showing great athleticism about the court, playing good recovery shots when out of position or after playing loose shots themselves. The rallies were long and hard for both players. Richard, however, was maybe starting to show a bit of weariness after his five-set match the previous evening and lost the first two games 8/11, 8/11. Richard made a great effort in the third game but just did not quite have enough energy and he lost it 9/11 and so the match 0-3.
Result: Wales lost to Scotland 2-3 (7/14)
Wales v Ireland (2pm Saturday)
The afternoon matches were due to start at the earlier time of 1.45 pm, but we were not informed by the organisers! However, Paul Murphy (5) was well prepared, as usual, and ready to take on David Hazzard. The first game was very close with Paul just edging it 12/10. Paul was playing with confidence, once again, and controlled the second game, taking it 11/6. However, a few unforced errors started to appear in the third game and the game went to a tie-break which Paul lost 10/12. Normal service was restored in the fourth game as Paul dominated throughout to take the game 11/2 and the match 3-1. Greg Watkins (3) was now against Gerry Callanan. Gerry is an experienced player of many past Home Internationals, but Greg made a very determined start, with some good hard hitting which kept Gerry on the back foot. The first two games went to Greg 11/9, 11/7 but they had taken a lot of effort. In the third Gerry’s boasts started to really stretch Greg who was starting to breathe the heavier of the two players. Greg ran for everything but lost the third 7/11 and the fourth 9/11. A big effort in the fifth by Greg saw him save 4 match points but he eventually lost the game 6/11 and the match 2-3. At number 1 string Jon Evans was up against the “flamboyant” Andre Maur! The first two games saw Jon doing all the running, as any loose shot by Jon presented Andre with the option of playing any one of “numerous” flicks to any part of the court. Jon had no idea where the ball was going and succumbed 7/11, 8/11 in those opening games. Jon was flat out on his back after that second game, and all looked lost. However, Jon decided to attack more. He had had some success with his “top-spin” volley drop, return of serve winners (!) in the fist two games but now he used them within the rallies, hitting volley drop and drop shot winners from all over the court. Jon was still chasing down every shot with all the energy he could find and somehow, he sneaked that game 12/10! Jon was extremely tired but went back on court with the same tactics in the fourth game and amazingly he sneaked it once again 12/10. With little energy left Jon went on court for the final game. Andre was finally looking a little tired and Jon continued going for and hitting winners in both front corners. Astoundingly, Jon won the game 11/2 and had turned the match around to win it 3-2. Wales led Ireland 2-1 and so just needed one of the next two ties to finish above Ireland in the tournament. Mike Logan (4) set about his game against Tom Crowe in typical fashion – a high pace with hard hitting and lots of running. Both players were evenly matched, but Tom took the game 14/12. Mike was starting to feel the effects of his two previous long matches (against England and Scotland) and tiredness set in as he lost the next game 1/11. A big push in the third game was just not quite enough and it was lost 8/11 and the match 0-3. Therefore, Richard Murphy (2) had to play the deciding tie against Karam Singh. Richard played controlled and measured right from the beginning and made the perfect start winning the opening games 11/3 11/3. He maintained this in the next to take it 11/5 and so the match 3-0 to give Wales the win over Ireland.
Result: Wales beat Ireland 3-2 (16/9).
England (1st), Scotland (2nd), Wales (3rd), Ireland (4th).
Written By: Gary Hales – Wales Over 55’s Men’s Team Captain 2022