The Welsh Over 35 Squash team made their way to Edinburgh on Friday to compete at the 2023 Home Nations, the team were excited and keen to get going but Easy-Jet had other ideas. Only an hour delay at the airport for the Damian, Scott, Nick and Jason while Rob and Mike made the long drive from North Wales.
The six debutants wide eyed and bushy tailed checked in to the 1.5-star (generous) Britannia Hotel Edinburgh, the tone was set when the taxi driver wasn’t able to hold back his laughter when dropping the team off at the front door of the hotel. After a quick change of room Scott and Nick were upgraded to a room that hadn’t just been used and the team were ready to head to the squash club.
Edinburgh Sports Club boasts 8 courts, including one just for table tennis, a hardball court and 6 squash courts, a great club steeped in history. The smell of deep heat throughout the corridors and in the changing rooms made all of us young men of 35 and over feel at home.
With Cymru on our back, we were ready for action, kitted out in red it was time to get this show on the road! Our first match up was against Scotland, the second favourites for the weekend but that didn’t deter our spirits, all the players were nervous but we were soon in action and Scott Couzens got us off to a great start after a tense first game, our very own 7 foot Spongebob came through 3-1; what a start! Up next was Jason Jones who had an uphill task from the start against a keen and energetic Scotsman who could certainly put away a winner, Jason lost 3-0. Damian Burgess then took to the court, playing at number one it was never going to be easy but after a few conversations with the referee he managed to stay on court for just over 22 minutes losing 3-0. Nick Rees the bearded Welshman was next and looked more Scottish than a bowl of oats, leaving everything on court Nick almost took the fourth to send it to a fifth but in the end lost 3-1 and the tie was effectively over. Last on was Rob Wilkins who hasn’t lost any of his touch that took him through the junior ranks and into his pro career, melting the ball into the nick wasn’t enough though Rob losing 3-2 in an entertaining final string match that took us late into the evening.
The team showered and retired to the bar to enjoy some re heated chilly and an Irn Bru, an early night for the team who knew it was going to be a long Saturday.
Breakfast time on Saturday and the team enjoyed the full works at the Britannia, powdered coffee and some well-cooked toast later, the team were ready for action! England were next for Cymru and as much as it isn’t ever easy playing the number 1 seeds at 10am on a Saturday it was made harder this year with a full-strength English team who looked determined not to drop a single point (rolls eyes)
Mike Dykins was up first for Cymru, the final debutant to take to the court this weekend and he made his best efforts to push Dave Palmer (no not that one) to his limits but just came up short losing 3-0. Jason on second again and was up against the youthful looking opponent who was asked for ID several times over the weekend, Jason lost 3-0 with the small matter of a bagel in the third. Damian then went into battle against the English number one who looked like he was out for a Saturday morning Park Run while Damian looked like he needed a doctor after the first game, and a change of tshirt. After another 22-minute match, it too finished 3-0 to England! The bearded wonder of Wales Nick was next in action and he too lost 3-0 but not before giving us some entrainment, another close battle and some extra miles in the legs. Rob was up next and with the Welsh team in full support it wasn’t to be, losing 3-0 and Wales were well and truly blown away by the neighbours.
So, to the final match of the weekend, a glass back court battle of the two Celtic nations, a playoff for the wooden spoon that Ireland had from the previous year. Both teams looked jaded from a fierce two days of matches already but there was third place to play for and we kicked off with Scott Couzens who had brought his own little fan club to watch, so some added pressure for him. The 8-foot reach of Scott was to be the difference, he didn’t let a single ball go past him, or over him and frustrated his opponent taking the match 3-0. Next on was Jason who was keen not to leave the weekend without picking up a game, playing a player who looked better than his team ranking Jason got close in every game but fell short 3-0. On to the captain Damian who was also desperate to pick up points for the team and at 2-0 down it didn’t look likely, but after some fantastic decisions from the ref and a change of ball it was back to 2-2. Sadly, the steam had run out in the third and the captain was running on empty, a 3-2 loss and the wooden spoon looked likely. Nick Rees was up next against an energetic wide-eyed Irishman, Nick looked determined to win and ran for every single shot, another five-game thriller but Nick lost out 3-2 and the match was over. Rob came on to court knowing the match sewn up but was professional in dispatching his opponent who had a longer warm up than the match itself, Rob winning 3-0.
With all the points added up and maybe some extras that the organisers had given us, the Welsh debutants were fourth by a single point and the wooden spoon was coming back to Cymru for a year. The difference in finishing 2nd and 4th were a matter of a few games, the team couldn’t have done any more against the strong turn out from the other home nations.
What followed was an evening of beers, hooch and some questionable shots from a plastic cup, an enjoyable and tough weekend of squash was over and it’s onwards to Cardiff in 2024 for the Over 35 team.
A message from the Captain, Damian Burgess. “It was an honour to represent and to captain this team, we wore Cymru on our back and left everything on court in every match. We all enjoyed every moment of the experience and I couldn’t have asked for a better team of men on and off the court. A weekend I won’t forget in a hurry and I hope I’m with this team again someday, some of the players who haven’t played many masters events in the past I hope this weekend has given them the bug to play more. I hope I see every one of them at the Welsh Masters Open in December and again at the Welsh Masters Closed in January 2024”