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It's a diamond era in squash!

Derek Ryan and Aisling Blake are among the special guests of the Irish Squash Association's gala dinner at the Conrad Hotel on October 2 which celebrates its 75th anniversary.

After squash courts were opened in Fitzwilliam, Stephens Green and Guinness in 1930, the Irish Squash Rackets Association was officially founded in Dublin in 1935 with Justice Davitt its first president.

By the 1960s, Irish players were making their mark on the world game, most notably the legendary Jonah Barrington, a Trinity student who won the Irish Open in 1966, 1967, 1969, and 1979, and British Open title, then effectively the World Championships, six times between 1967 and 1973.

Barrington was honoured with a lifetime achievement award at the 2006 World Squash Awards.

A decade or so later, Willie Hosey played on the world circuit, making it as far as No25 on the rankings. Hosey's record of 10 national titles still stands. He was followed by his great rival Derek Ryan, the former world No7, who won eight Irish titles, six PSA world ranking events and a record 192 (and counting) Irish caps. Now a physiotherapists based in Dublin, Ryan recently won the world over-40 squash title.

Irish women squash players have proved even more successful. At No5, Madeline Perry is the highest ranked Irish squash player ever. Perry, aged 33, is in the form of her life, recently winning the Australian Open and then the Irish Open title. She is one of the few players to have beaten world No 1 Nicole David and is currently competing at the Commonwealth Games.

Perry has eclipsed the considerable achievements of trailblazer Rebecca Best, who reached No6 in the world rankings in 1988. Ireland is fortunate to have two world-ranked women players, with Blake from Sligo ranked No24 and making the semi-finals at the Irish Open. The pair are at the heart of a successful Irish women's team that took fifth at the 2008 World Team Championships and fourth at the recent European Championships -- a competition that visits Belfast next year.

At juvenile level, the sport is on a high, thanks to the hard work of coaches such as Eoin Ryan.

Here's to the next 75 years!


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