Stage 2 AWAY @ Hithercroft SC, Oxfordshire on 24th/25th March Oxfordshire V Essex V Hants V Cornwall report by Tony Bowyer
Considering their combined years of playing squash – at least 100 – The Three Russketeers didn’t lack experience at this Promotion Group B Stage 2 meeting of aspiring county O60s teams in the charming setting of Wallingford somewhere in the Oxfordshire countryside. But did they lack stamina, fitness or even skill? Maybe, well you know the scenario, they might have lacked that certain winning ‘know-how’ you get from playing in big ‘up-country’ leagues, what you might call amounts to an inferiority complex playing against the best counties in the S of England. They, the 3Rs, preferred to call it being the UNDERDOGS, the usual default mentality for backwater county players who ply their sport in one of the smallest leagues in the entire country……lambs to the slaughter again, you might think!
BUT NO……..The 3 Rs made history and shall be forever be known as Cornish Legends because Dave, Tony and Russ won the stage and will now play in the Southern Premier League next season with a chance to qualify for the All-England Finals and perhaps, just maybe, slightly maybe, pretty please maybe, a sniff at being national champions!
But it wasn’t easy. In fact, a re-run next weekend might see an entirely different result, they mused together post match somewhere on the M5 between Bridgewater and Taunton. Easy for #1 Dave with 3 more Ws in an impressive undefeated first season, but Captain Tony nearly scuppered the whole weekend with a miserable, dire, pathetically inept performance in his 2nd match against Andy from (The Only Way is) Essex who looked well beaten at 2-0 down in the last game of the day as the enticing smells of supper in the clubhouse came wafting down the corridor. Even more miserable and dire was the caning poor Tony received from his team mates back at the Red Lion for being so utterly ‘mentally deficient’ (remember it) in throwing away at least several or more match balls – a classic 2-3 ‘snatching defeat from the jaws of victory’ result to put the whole weekend in jeopardy. How could the captain be so inconsiderate causing so much anxiety and despair especially given the fragile medical conditions of players in this age group! They were visibly pulling their hair out – well, those strands that are left, that is! At least the packed gallery found it amusing! At least Andy was smiling! Essex beat Cornwall 2-1, most unexpected! Tony’s fault…..
Having trounced hosts Oxfordhshire 3-0 in their first match, Russ notably beating a Welsh O60s international player 3-2, the evening’s 1-2 blip V Essex and the combination of other results meant that the decider would be Cornwall V Hampshire on the glassback showcourt on the Sunday morning. Huge crowds were not expected in spite of a 2 for 1 offer at the turnstiles, but Tony could almost predict what was going to happen as he looked sorrowfully into his soggy tea leaves at breakfast: it would be 1-1 and the match and weekend would all depend on the #2s who always play last, one a hero, the other a zero! Tony wasn’t smiling. Would it be 14-10 match ball, Andy’s glorious fightback, the crowing Essex crowd baying for more blood and those ‘mental deficiencies’ all over again? Tony quietly shuddered as he contemplated defeat and a lonely 5 hours trapped in a car with Dave and Russ on the long journey back home. And so it came to pass, Russ lost 1-3 to a pair of ‘fresh old legs’ hand selected cunningly from the many legions of accomplished Hampshire players, but Dave ‘The Master’ Matthew showed such ‘mental efficiency’ in mercilessly demolishing his hapless opponent 3-0 that the scene was set for Tony V Steve, as predicted in the wet tea leaves, the ‘all hopes resting on’ final decider!!!
From zero to hero – cometh the hour, cometh the man – Tony showed his team mates what mental toughness and a few jammy nicks are all about. He may have zen-like calm, a magnanimous view of the world, a weak bladder and a severe lack of concentration at times, even as County Chairman, and I’m sure many doubt his ability to even to comb his hair in the mornings! But hero he was, even if I say-so myself, and with great gusto and a heightened sense of ‘mental efficiency’ he romped to an emphatic 3-0 stage and promotion winning performance that even Dave thought was quite good!
The long trip home was a good spirited, celebratory affair with much evidence of bonhomie between the 3 Rs, you know, the usual analysis and squash talk like the merits and demerits of sugar coated v liquid ibuprofen and super foods for athletes like smashed avocado and poached egg. Conversations around questions like, “Do you think your next pair of asics will be your last?” were numerous. Much jollity, much camaraderie but somewhere in Somerset the ‘youngsters’ in the Over 50s were having an equally good time – a good weekend for Cornwall Squash! Tony thought that they must have showed great mental efficiency too in winning as comfortably as they did……..well done to them, our future O60s! Then Exeter dissolved into Oakhampton against an almost summery BST backdrop of the moors, which in turn dissolved into Bodmin, then finally Truro and the triumphant homecoming of flag waving and brass bands, the open topped bus tour. It must be time for that afternoon nap……
Oh and I’m surprised you’re still reading this, but rewind back to the athletes’ breakfast and Tony’s wet tea leaves in the bottom of his mug……..in them he saw a soggy, big, fat W!!!!
Bibliography: 1. ‘The Hitchhikers’ Guide to Mental Efficiency’ by Nick Roller ISBN 909090 2. ‘My Battle with Mental Deficiency and More’ by L.Oser ISBN 150150-015015015 3. ‘Cornish Legends in Squash’ by E. Ficient ISBN 29221918
Ratings: Dave Matthew ***** Tony *** Russ ****
Cornwall 29, Hampshire 22, Oxfordshire 19 and Essex 18 – GET IN!!!
For all the results and divisions google www.mastersicc.leaguemaster.co.uk
Stage 1 Devon V Cornwall V S Wales @ Torquay Squash Club Oct 28/29 2017
Match Report by Tony Bowyer
Making their debuts in this season’s England Inter-County Masters’ Over 60s Competition, a trio of Truro SRC members and county stalwarts caused a serious upset by beating both Devon and S Wales at Torquay SC. Russ and Dave both won convincingly against Devon in the opening fixture but Tony went down narrowly 3-2 in a tetchy match lasting un-masters-like 1hr and 5 mins! The winning score line of 2-1 against our much stronger neighbours and traditional old foes brought big smiles to the Cornish team self-dubbed ‘The Three Russketeers’. An experienced S Wales side of internationals (a combined 100+ caps at masters’ level) looked favourites to take the spoils after beating the hosts more convincingly with the same 2-1 result, but The Russketeers had other ideas. Russ went down to a tricky left-hander but the match became finely poised when Tony surprised many as he battled his way back to a 3-1 win putting the historic win within touching reach. In a dazzling display of short rallies and unreturnable drops, the classy Cornwall No 1 made light work of dispatching his Welsh opponent who looked nothing but bemused throughout. The happy hour at the bar was that much happier after that and a good night of celebrations followed also in the company of the Over 50s who were playing in Newton Abbott on the same weekend. Stage 2? Bring it on……..