Ryan keeps his nerve and retains title
WHILE the struggle to break into the world's top 10 just never seems to end for Derek Ryan, the Dubliner scored a convincing victory in yesterday's Irish championships title decider to finally kill off doubts about his pre-eminence in squash in this country.
When, two years ago, Ryan allowed a seemingly insurmountable lead to slip away to Willie Hosey in the final of the nationals, it seemed possible that the 10 times champion need only give his rival a withering glance when they met each year in order to continue amassing titles.
In the intervening time, however, Ryan has become a far more rounded player and even when he allowed the 35-year-old to take the first game of their latest encounter yesterday at Fitzwilliam, he never seemed to be under the same sort of pressure from previous meetings.
Hosey took the opening game 10-8 after 24 minutes, but as soon as the second got under way it was clear who was controlling the proceedings and, although the Carlowman harried the defending champion throughout the rest of the match, he could manage to score only five more points before conceding defeat.
The first game was marvellously entertaining, while Hosey's brief sprint into the lead in the third sparked hopes he might push the matter to a fifth game. However, there were no signs of the nerves that had cost Ryan so dearly in the past.
I thought that if I had gotten another couple of points in that game then Derek might have started to think about the past and panic a bit," said Hosey afterwards.
"Well at four love two of his points had come from really bad tins by me so I wasn't going to hit any more low balls after that. If he wanted any more points he was going to have to work really hard for them," said Ryan.
Nobody, of course, could ever accuse Hosey of failing to put in the required effort on these occasions, but the legs, which hadn't seen any serious competitive action since May, simply weren't up to.the task.
He was, nevertheless, happy with his performance and joked about going one better next year. Then off he skipped to receive his cheque and when Ryan was congratulated on his third title, Hosey was quick to quip: "Just another seven to go, eh Derek."
A beaming Ryan was quick to respond with "No, eight."
The women's final was a far more one-sided affair with Aisling McArdle making it three titles in a row with a 9-3, 9-3, 9-0 defeat of Anna McGeever that took just half an hour to achieve.
"I knew I was finished after the first when I had to put in so much work for just three points," said McGeever.
"I haven't being playing enough because of college and Aisling knew exactly how to kill me off. Still I would have liked the score today to have been a bit better looking but overall I'm very pleased really with having made it through to the final."
There were others, too, who justified their earlier questioning of the seedings with former finalist Laura Mylotte coming through to finish fifth - four places higher than her ranking had suggested, while Ken Flynn also emerged unbeaten after his encounter with the top seed, although not before having to scrap it out with young Patrick Foster in a prolonged five-setter.