What a Terrific series of playoff matches we were treated to this past Sunday. With our two teams playing at home in blustery but playable conditions a full terrace filled the day with great promise. First on court at 11 and following strict nocturnal instructions and curfews our 7ths assembled at 1030 for stretching and warm-ups to ready themselves for their Castleknock opponents.

Dressed to kill in the new Sandycove attire to a man they looked determined and ready for all comers. First up at 1st singles Tom O’Higgins and Andrew Browne broke their opponents early and often to win the first set with ease while at the same time Gary Byrne (standing in for the older Bennett) & Steve McGoohan raced off to a 5/2 first set lead. On court 5 however the younger O’Higgins and Paddy Dempsey were in a battle royal in the first set with frustrations bubbling to the surface on occasion. Understandable given the circumstances. As the coffee brewed in the back Kitchen and the ginger snaps were rolled out the sizeable crowd could see that this looked to all to be the important match up of the tie.

Onto Jimmy Casey strode Mark Feurie and Paul Fitzgerald to take on Stakallen’s first team at number one doubles as Sandycove thirds went in search of glory. Little did they know that this would be the defining match of the day.

Supporting at 2nd doubles was Luke Bennett and Sam Hanley looking lean and hungry while Paul Kilduff again answered the call and subbed in with Philip Craig giving the team a strong and balanced look and feel. Early blows in the first three games across all three courts gave Stackallen momentum however Kilduff and Craig then found their stride and began to overwhelm their opponents. On Jimmy Casey Mark and Paul hit a great run of games and crucially served for the set at 6/5. Bennett and Hanley were clearly up against a very strong pairing and while at first sight their opponents did not strike the anxious crowd as athletes, they were highly competent off both sides and won a tight first set.

Back to Court six where Byrne and McGoohan had inexplicable let 4 games in a row go to be down 6/5 in the first set. A classic example of taking the foot off when you have your opponent struggling. Regroup they did though and again opened the shoulders to win the tie break 7/0 and the first set. Ditto for Cian and Paddy as while not at their best they did enough to win a tight first set and take a narrow lead in the 2nd. At this stage of the morning Tom and Andrew had their opponents in real trouble and were deep into a 2nd set delivering consistent match winning tennis.

On court two Sam and Luke were in fightback mode taking a 4/3 lead in the 2nd and they looked like they would again pull off a win akin to that of the previous round. Not to be though as the opposition were simply too consistent and went on to win in two. Meanwhile Craig and Kilduff were simply in the Zone and their opponents stood little chance and went down in two leaving the tie on a knife edge.

One up on the 7ths and now 1 all on the 3rds spectators were torn between all three matches left on court but not for long. McGoohan with his powerful forehand and Byrne with his somewhat effeminate but effective backhand (some were heard to wonder was it a ballet move or a tennis shot) dominated the opposition to close out the match and march the 7th’s into the semi-finals and O’Higgins/Dempsey while ahead in the 2nd set concluded the rubber.

That left us with Jimmy Casey and the fiercely competitive 3rd set match to decide the fate of our 3rds. As happens on so many occasions after winning a superb 2nd set our boys lost the first service game of the 3rd and were left playing catch up for the following 30 minutes of tennis. Game four saw 2 break points slip by followed by a great hold of serve by Feurie. Game 6 saw both Fitzgerald and Feurie play some wonderfully enthralling tennis to again create 2 break point chances. In fairness to their opponents they gave as good as they got and it was simply too close to call. Our boys as hard as they tried could not get back the break and went down in glorious flames having given everything for the team.

And so here we are at the end of a long campaign with our 7ths into the semi-finals and our 3rds bowing out having lost by the closest of margins.

Sunday November 7th is the date, Sandycove TSC is the location, 11AM the appointed time and Greystones 6ths are the opponents. Messrs McGoohan, Dempsey, the O’Higgins boys, young Browne and the Older Bennett have committed to a quite contemplative few days ahead focusing their attention on nutrition, sleep, hydration and beer deprivation until Sunday evening.

We wish them every success and encourage all the support available to show up and cheer them on. A Home match and the support that comes with it could just make the difference 😊.

By jingo but this could be a thriller!!