Two of Ireland's entries for the 2013 Association Croquet World Championships began preparation for the August tournament in Nottingham this weekend, competing in the Championships of the East Midlands (with the familiar draw-and-process format used in the Railway cup event in the Co. Dublin Championships). The event had a strong entry and was sure to provide a good test for both Irish Johnstons (Andrew and Danny).
Andrew is seeking to better his previous World Championship bronze medal this year, but he did not have it all his own way in the early stages of the East Midlands with some uncharacteristic losses to lower ranked opposition. He rallied on days 2 and 3 however, and put in a good performance in the process half of the tournament before narrowly losing to Robin Brown after being TPO'd. Danny, facing into his first World Championship appearance, enjoyed a reasonable opening day before being knocked out by the English no.2 Mark Avery in a tight quarter final. The process half saw another bright start for the Wicklow man until he came up against eventual finalist James Death, who hit Danny's NSL on turn 5 and completed his triple whilst the Lions wrapped up the 3rd test against Australia.
Both players had a reasonable showing in the plate event to wrap up an informative, if ultimately slightly disappointing tournament. The pair will have to employ a wider variety of tactics against the stronger players in the WC if lawn conditions are as easy as they were in Nottingham. This was exemplified by the tournament winner Robert Fulford who completed 7 sextuple peels in 3 days play, as well as the TPO tactics displayed by other GB players such as Brown and Hopgood. Lessons will have been learnt and will be taken forward into this year's Championships of Ireland which is sure be an excellent event with many overseas entrants.
The tournament was played in great spirit, efficiently managed by Ian Vincent and well hosted by James Death and all the catering volunteers on a scorcher of a weekend. Nottingham croquet club now boasts 8 immaculate lawns in the idyllic setting of the University grounds; it is well worth a visit!