The Leinster Masters took place in Palmerstown with a good entry, a few players missing, some “newbys”, a fair share of shocks, and possibly our latest finish to date – big thanks to the understanding staff, and also to the injured Dave Pender who was invaluable at the top table, together with the usual volunteers Anne Marie, Ger, Dave, and Sharon.
The ladies’ event had 12 competitors, with 3 groups of 4, and 6 qualifying for the knockout stages. In the 2 quarter finals Oksana beat Sharon 4 9 8, while Anne Marie defeated Paula 7 8 5. Oksana progressed to the final with a win over top seed Susan 5 6 7, while Ger was victorious in 5 sets when she played Anne Marie for what must be the umpteenth time, scores were 7 -9 -8 0 8. Oksana won the final 3-0, though the third game was very close, scores were 8 2 10.
The 40s had an entry of 20, top seed Oleg was a very late withdrawal, while a phone-call elicited the news that Pat was delayed at a funeral. This left the event very open, and the first-time entry of Artur Lewanczuk added spice. Indeed he provided the first shock by beating favourite and multi-winner Daryl 11 6 -5 11 in the last 16, before bowing out to Phil Wallace 9 9 7. Near-devastation ensued in the quarters! The well-improved Dave Gibbons took out Mark McAlister -4 8 6 -7 10. Paul Gallagher had a deserved win over Tibor -3 7 9 5. Rod McKirgan worked hard to beat Susan 5 7 -9 11 having already defeated Oksana 9 -10 -6 5 9. The semis resulted in wins for Rod over Paul 7 8 9 and Phil over Dave 6 3 10.
In the final Phil continued on his imperious way, the first 2 games were tight, the scores were 9, 11, 4, so Phil won without dropping a game all day, his first Masters win since Glenburn 2022, while Rod was well satisfied with his first appearance in a 40s final.
There were 22 in the 50s, the numbers being depleted by 2nd seed Tibor pulling out after the 40s, too late for the draw to be changed, this unfortunately made the draw somewhat lopsided. Top seed Pat lost in the last 8 3-1 to Sean McAnaney, Rod won the local derby against Mark 6 6 9, Kieron Burke defeated the in-form “Paul from Donegal” (his email address!) 7 7 11, while Daryl had no bother dealing with Des 4 6 7. Daryl progressed to the final with a solid win over Sean 8 4 2, where he met Kieron who had a tight win over Rod -3 11 9 12. Kieron has had a strange season – winner of the 60s in the Classification followed by failure to get out of either of his groups at Glenburn, he did well to reach the final here but Daryl overpowered him 3 1 7, winning without dropping a game, and in the process moving from 14 to 2 in the rankings.
The 60s had the largest entry, 26, no late withdrawals and no no-shows, and proved as competitive as usual. Des, winner at Glenburn, proved irresistible as he beat Fergal O’Hagan 6 -11 4 9 in the last 8 and Kariem 9 9 -8 4 in the semi. In the other half Sean had an almighty scare before beating Jeremy Lappin 13 in the fifth, and then defeated Tommy Caffrey in another close encounter 8 -6 -7 12 5. In the semi he beat Kieron 10 1 9. In the battle of the travelling companions Des came out on top as he had at Glenburn -12 7 9 7.
The 70s, with an entry of 14, proved interesting but eventually predictable. Top seed Norman won his group, then played Brian for the fifth consecutive tournament – Brian having lost a group match to Albert Coulter. Tommy lost in his group to Jim Storey who was in fine form with his vicious left-handed forehands. Barry Dickson’s reward for winning his group ahead
of Jeremy was a last 8 encounter with Tommy, going down -5 -1 -6. Norman beat Brian 4 6 -7 5, while Jeremy eliminated Jim 10 9 6, and Albert put out Shay O’Reilly -7 6 7 6.
Norman just crawled past Jeremy after dropping the first 2 games and almost letting slip an 8-3 lead in the 5th, before winning -6 -9 9 4 9. Tommy dropped one game to Albert but won 7 1 -7 4. In the final Norman showed his consistency, maintaining his 100% record this season – 3 events, 3 finals, 3 defeats! Must do better. Tommy was a convincing winner 7 8 6 for his 2nd 70s win from 2 events played. One interesting and amusing footnote is that before the final started the umpire (new to these events) asked Tommy was he Tommy or Norman!
To conclude, I have mentioned non-arrivals and withdrawals. In the last 2 events we have players entering and not turning up, players not entering and turning up, and players withdrawing mid-tournament. This is unfair on the “top table”, draws have had to be re-done, seeds moved from one group to another, and groups becoming somewhat uneven. To do this at short notice – or at virtually no notice – puts totally unnecessary pressure on the organisers. It would be good if all players could be aware of their responsibilities. Sermon over!
And so, on to the Munster Masters on 6 January. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone.
Report by NORMAN NABNEY