Quality across the board last night. What’s not to love, evening late Summer sun, the crack of a winning passing shot followed by the appreciative euphonious sounds emanating from spectators all while being served up tastes of Summer by our beautifully attired hostesses Mairead and Catherine. Really, one has to ask does it get much better than this?
With the evening featuring the last of our Q Finals and 4 semi Final match ups tight matches abounded across all courts. First up the LDip with Natalie Doyle/Ken Browne taking on the impressive Vanessa O’Reilly and the ever smiling Jimmy Morrissey. Jimmy felt blessed on several fronts both with his partner and with how deep into week two of the Championships he found himself leaving many of his normal weekly Jousters in his rear mirror. Alas despite their best efforts Ken and Natalie proved a step to far.
Paul and Vivienne Fitzgerald matched up against the Mixed doubles number 2 seeds Neiland/Mc Nally O’Rourke. No shortness of commitment or indeed a level of skill from the Fitzgerald duo however quality of the opponents and their cumulative hours on court together was decisive. Another family pairing that of Stephan and Mark Gill faced the rising young stars Sam Hughes & Caoimhin Cronin. A Terrific first set with Mark elevating his game ensuring the tightest of margins with Hughes and Cronin winning it 7/5. This young pair have played together for all of their formative tennis years which was very evident in the 2nd set as they won in 2. One suspects Winter League selectors will be looking to keep this combo in place for the battles ahead.
Onto the much anticipated match up of Roy Bailey & Oisin O’Hanlon against the well-seasoned and rejuvenated pairing of Rob and Steve Gill who got off to a flier winning the first set 6/0. Everything about their game is intuitive and born out of years of tight matches together. Roy and Oisin, a more recent combination, grew into the match and by the 2nd set were asking significant questions of the boys with Roy finding great angles and Oisin demonstrating the highest quality of touch. Familiarity won the day though with Rob & Steve progressing.
All the while Vanessa O’Reilly & Linda Walsh took to court against the Ladies Doubles number 2 seeds Chloe & Orla Patton. This was all about the first set with the less fancied pair playing aggressive (as they must) penetrating tennis and testing every element of their vaunted opponents game. Chances to take the set came and went for Walsh & O’Reilly and came again as they moved into a tie break only to be rebuffed & rejected by Patton/Giacometti who won what proved the crucial first set 7/6 and the match. A similar tale unfolded on Court 2 with Jocelyn/Ivan Brady challenging the Men’s number 1 seeds and challenge they did racing into a 4-love lead with some brilliant tennis on view. Slowly but surely Will and Cormac climbed back into the set. The quality of volleying from all four was a joy to behold both for its crispness and depth and the number one seeds edged these exchanges as the set progressed winning the tightest of tie breaks. As with the lady’s doubles one only gets a few opportunities at this level and Cormac and Will ran out confident winners in the 2nd set.
Two further matches of note before this writer gets to what for him was the match of the evening the first of which pitched the Browne boys (Does Ken ever come off Court) Vs Dave Hanley & Frank McCooey. The former team were crisper and cleaner in the first set taking it 6/3 with young Andrew on song with his serve and an impressive forehand weapon on display throughout. Frank & Dave stormed back in the 2nd set combining to put their opponents back on their heels and dominating the net for most of the set. Into a tie breaks we went with Hanley & McCooey flying into a 6 to 3 points lead and for all the world looking odds on to take it to a 3rd. Crossing that line though is as we all know never that simple and so it proved as Ken and Andrew won in 2.
Next door on Court 3 we were treated to another Family pairing of Luke/Dermot Bennett Vs Conor O’Reilly and the recently back to fitness Jim O’Hanlon. As this match progressed it drew the interest of the crowd due in part to some great tennis but also in part to the every increasing noise levels emanating from the combatants as they strove and strained to win each and every point. The 3rd set was great viewing and great fun if of course you were aloft on the balcony or indeed Courtside. O’Reilly & O’Hanlon played their best tennis to jump into what looked to all to be a commanding and decisive lead at 4/1 only to be hauled back by the lads to 5/4 with Dermot to serve to keep their chances alive and as with his performances throughout the event to date he delivered the all-important service game as the Bennett’s went onto win 7/5.
At 7:15pm we were treated on Jimmy Casey Court to the match up of Lucy Butler/ Sarah Jane Lloyd against the number 1 seeds Sandie O’Callaghan & Sarah Riordan Emerson which quite simply proved to be the match of the night. By 10pm and following some enthralling match play tennis we had a result. The first set went to the favourites 6/4 with some good quality on display but a feeling that the number one seeds were in control and while at no time dominating looking more & more comfortable.
Something needed to change and so it did as with length and pace of shot by Lucy and far more aggressive approach play on view from Sarah Jane they started to ask serious questions of the girls and began to win the important and game changing points winning 6/4 in the 2nd. Could they keep this level up was the burning question and how would Sandie & Sarah respond. Into the third we went to witness some wonderful shot making and rallies won by cracking down the line backhands from Sandie, total commitment volleying from Sarah Jane and control and agility in equal measure from Sarah and Lucy. Simply as a spectator too tough to call as both deserved to win. Number 1 status though is not just learned but earned not in a single game or match but over time and based on moments such as these when it counts and they delivered with a deserved and hard fought for high quality 6/4 win in the final set. One senses a steely determination in O Callaghan & Emerson and boy will this be tested in the final.
Can it get better? Don’t take my word for it just take a look at this evening’s card. Scintillating evening ahead.
Sandycove Senior Championships 2021
For all you Warriors still in the fight from one of the great ones:
“I don’t count my sit-ups. I only start counting once it starts hurting. ” – Muhammad Ali
Your Championships Committee