Despite all arriving from different airports at different times (and indeed days in a few cases), the GB team successfully congregated at Carrickmines for a weekend of the usual Irish hospitality, but accompanied by the much rarer Irish sunshine. As noted by the most experienced members of the team, GB began with what is fast becoming an unwelcome tradition of losing in the doubles. On this occasion it was 3-0 to the home team by shortly after lunch, with the Bowdon partnership of Maugham & Walters putting up most resistance before succumbing to a spirited performance by Simon Williams and Patsy Fitzgerald, both of whom were close to top form. Aiton & Foulser considered themselves a little unfortunate to lose to Ed Cunningham's peg out from the South boundary while splitting to their join, while Brown & Evans never really got back into their match against Ireland's future stars Danny Johnston and Kieran Murphy after Robin had an unlucky breakdown on a TPO in the first game. Both sides had a few chances but Kieran finished the match in style by running hoop 3 from 3 yards at 45 degrees, before embarking on a delayed triple that never looked like finishing until the immaculate straight double at the end.
Having "played themselves in", the visitors showed their true form in the afternoon singles, and although the top players dropped games most results were convincing. Your correspondent expressed the opinion that Aiton was lucky not to lose off the contact in his decider against Cunningham, who ran 1 to the North boundary but then missed his 6-yarder at Keith's hoop 1 ball in corner II - on the south side, thus leaving a dolly rush to the ball still near hoop 1. However, my advice that a POP was "compulsory" in these circumstances proved unhelpful the following day when Keith broke down on a TPO attempting said POP, giving Williams a trivial finish to take their match.
Maugham won both his singles matches and as so often looked like GB's most solid performer, despite a 4am start on the Saturday morning which resulted in the attached photo, taken at an impromptu "team meeting" held in the Chinese restaurant on Saturday night. The GB team were generously paid for by the Irish CA but despite the constant flow of wine, GB wins continued the following morning with Evans completing 4 TPs and 104 unanswered points (though the final triple was a little more exciting than his team-mates would have wished), and Robin winning comfortably against Danny after also prevailing in a good battle against Kieran the day before.
It was then left to David Walters to put the winning point on the board with a triple of his own - his attempted straight triple in the first game had come to grief by sending a long, speculative rover peel off the lawn having caught no wire. As the result was no longer in doubt David Foulser's singles matches remained incomplete at 1-1, Irish captain Nathaniel Healy pleading his birthday as an excuse to leave early. David thus joined those Brits who could claim to be undefeated in singles this time round, but we had every faith that this would have been the case anyway.
The lawns were in excellent condition thanks to the attentions of Simon Williams, particularly so given the recent weather, but the softness of the ground did make them easy. Lawns 3 and 4 provided more of a challenge due to their use as bowling greens (for which it appears the hoops are not removed) and, more importantly, tennis (where I guess they are).
The chess was won by Aiton after Cunningham had explained to Evans the art of the "counter-blunder" before the latter made masterful use of same, and Keith also prevailed in a game of "Seven Wonders" by dint of spotting a simple strategy and running with it while the rest of us were still trying to work out the rules.
A similar lack of tactical knowledge saw Brown & Evans beat Williams & Johnston in Simon's modified version of croquet whereby each side has a "peeling clip". Before you can peg out, you must advance your side's peeling clip by peeling partner through the hoop on which the peeling clip is placed. In this game each side started with their peeling clip on hoop one, thus playing effectively a 38-point game. It is possible to win in 2 turns by playing two sextuples (with the first of these advancing the peeling clip from hoop 1 to 1-back while taking one ball from hoop 1 to the peg, and the second being a normal sextuple) but this was quickly discovered to be beyond our talents. It is an entertaining game (no need for lifts or contacts as the innings changes hands frequently enough, what with a fair amount of jockeying for position needed in order to get all the peels) and worthy of further trials which Simon intends to conduct. I would suggest it is an order of magnitude more difficult than super-advanced AC, and it is also "more different", so may take a while to catch on. But thanks to Simon for this and to the Irish team as a whole for hosting superbly as usual.