Sam Buckley Mike Conlon Peter Stevens Irish Open 2022

With the provincial Opens completed, the Masters Squash circuit returned to the Fitzwilliam club last weekend for the Irish Open.

Competing in the O65 section was Ennis CBS’ Mike Conlon, bidding to continue his excellent season thus far. Looming large in his path all season has been the determined challenge of Peter Stephens, with the players meeting in all four provincial finals. Stephens held a 3-1 lead in these contests, all desperately close-fought and Conlon was motivated to clinch the Blue Riband this time.

After a reasonably comfortable 3-0 win over Ulsterman David Ferguson in the first round, Conlon had a substantial challenge in the semifinal. Starting well with tight driving to take the first game, Conlon was buffeted somewhat in the next game with his opponent striking back to parity. Conlon needed to refocus and reimpose his game plan and he did exactly that to claim a fine 3-1 win. Inevitably, the opposition in the final was to be provided by Peter Stephens.

The first game was a tense affair with Conlon making a few uncharacteristic errors but establishing a pattern of play to cope with Stevens powerful serving and cross court boasts. Conlon’s speed around the court had the effect of limiting Stephens’ ability to garner winners from his drops or boasts. However, Stephens succeeded in taking the first game 11-8. The second game was pivotal for the destination of this title, with a highly motivated Conlon ramping up the pace and intensity to run into a 9-3 lead.  Undaunted, Stephens then redoubled his efforts, with Conlon erring in boasting several balls into the ‘tin’ when winners were on. Stephens levelled the game at 9-9 and the ferocious contest continued deep into a tiebreak to 15-15. Conlon kept his composure to get to 16-15 and then a raking low drive from the Ennis CBS man put Stephens under intolerable pressure to give Conlon a vital game.

The huge physical strain of the long second game, allied to the immense transfer of momentum saw Conlon dominate the remainder of the match with two 11-4 wins to secure a momentous Irish Open title against a formidable adversary.

In the O70 competition, John O’Shaughnessy was flying the flag for Ennis CBS. Having shown a lot of consistency throughout the season, O’Shaughnessy had already effectively nailed down a place in the Irish team for the Home Internationals – a first cap for the club stalwart. Displaying his typical technical prowess, O’Shaughnessy was competitive throughout the weekend and can savour his achievement of representing his country later this year.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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