CARLOW became the squash centre of Ireland this weekend when Carlow LTC and Carlow Sports Social Club co-hosted the Leinster Junior Squash open. The event attracted the cream of Irish Junior squash players and it certainly lived up to its expectation.
The Luthers, Casey and Ryan were the highest finishers of the Carlow players with Casey reaching the U-15 girls final following a terrific semi-final win over Sinead Walsh (Waterford).
Casey looked a little nervous in the first game of her final against Hannah Craig (Belfast) which she lost 11-4, but Casey improved her game in the second but lost 11-8.
The third and fourth games were Casey's best winning 11-6, 11-3 with her opponent questioning many of the referee's descisons in the third game.
Casey as usual kept her cool persona and dragged the Northerner all over the court with a great array of shots to level the match.
The final game was frantic, Casey went ahead early but Craig is very competitive and chased down everything that Luther produced. The standard was very high, adrelinin was pumping, the large Carlow crowd very loud in their support of young Casey but Craig took the final game 11-6 to win.
In the boys U-17 Ryan Luther had two wins from three matches which ensured a good thirrd place finish for him. A bye in the first round, saw him defeat Paul O'Mahoney (Cork) 3/0 in round 2. In the semi's the number 2 seed Philip McSweeney was a tough opponent for Luther and he went down 3/0 11-6, 12-10, 11-5.
Harry Lloyd (Dublin) was Ryan's opponent for the Sunday evening game and Ryan was a comfortable 3/1 winner here.
The Doyle brothers, Cian and Jack both played very well throughout the tournament with Cian ranked 7th finishing in 5th place in the U-17 event. Cian defeated the No5 seed Thomas Abrahams 11-5, 6-11, 11-7, 11-9 and No 6 seed Paul O'Mahoney 1311, 4-11, 11-5, 13-11.
Younger brother Jack, also number 7 seed had a tough 3/2 with number 10 seed Brian Collins in first round but won 11-8, 711, 9-11, 11-4, 11-4. Jack pushed the number 2 seed Sean Dineen in the second round in 3/1 game 11-7, 11-5, 11-13, 11-7.
Jack's Cork opponent for 5/6th place was Barry Lynch from Cork and this was an exciting game of squash, Jack took the first 11-9 and Lynch the second 11-6, both players were playing great squash and somehow Lynch allowed some refereeing calls get to him. Doyle remained focused and took the next two games 11-9, 11-6 to gain an excellent fifth position.
The O'Keefe sisters Niamh and Shiela competed in the U-19 and U-15 girls events with Niamh taking third behind Breanne Flynn and Laoibhse Dunbar (Waterford).
Shiela in the U-15 event finished fifth defeating Lily Lloyd 11-3, 11-4, 11-3 in her final game.
A number of younger an inexperienced players took part in the event and there was great excitement throughout the age groups.
Eamon Lalor ranked 14th finished an excellent 10th in the Boys U-11 losing out in a terrific game of squash to Michael Duignan (Dublin) 11-6, 13-11, 6-11, 14-12 .
In 11th position was Matthew Downey who finished well with a 3/2 win over Jack Creaven (Dublin). Jake Somers finished 15th with 3/0 win over Josh Brown (Belfast) closely followed by Aongus Ó Sé in 17th place and Noah Downey 20th.
The standard in the boys U-11 just has to been seen to be believed. The final between two players from Dublin who are just eight years of age was fascinating to watch with Denis Gilvesiky defeating Dylan Moran 3/0.
Such were the number of entrants in the U-11 event that a 32 draw had to be used, this meant five games for the players and they gained valuable experience which will stand to them for future events.
David Lalor considering his lack of competitive matches did very well finishing 18th. Jamie Stafford and James Murphy both playing their first major Open finished 19th and 20th respectively.
Rory O'Flaherty finished 16th and with a little luck could have taken 15th position with a very close 16-14, 11-5, 11-5 loss to Will Lacey (Dublin).
The next events will be the Irish Junior Nationals (Cork) February 8 and the Leinster Junior Closed (Dublin) February 15.