Isle of Man Squash Rackets Association sent a squad to compete in the European Team Championships from the 3rd to 6th of April in Lisbon, Portugal. The Isle of Man were in Division 3, competing against nineteen other European countries, and for the first time in ten years put forward a women’s as well as a men’s team.
The IOM Squad is pictured above. The men’s team was made up of Thomas Whiteway, Oscar Hill, Malcolm Levy and Patrick Fitzpatrick while the women’s team consisted of Beth Jones, Michelle Smith and junior Amaline Batty. None of these women have ever played international squash before so this was a great experience as well as a big challenge for them.
Arriving at the courts in Lisbon it was obvious that the matches would be a challenge due to the courts being semi open air and the temperature in single figures.
The first matches were played in a round robin format and the men’s team were drawn against Malta, Lithuania and Poland while the women had to play Norway and Luxembourg in a group of three. The Isle of Man men were first on court against Malta and although they put up a spirited fight they lost 4-0. The women then played a very strong team from Norway (who eventually finished third) and again played well but lost 3-0. The men were back in action three hours later against Lithuania and, although three of the four matches went to five games, the team lost 4-0. An early start the next morning saw the women back in action and again they played well in some very close matches but the more experienced Luxembourg team came out on top.
Unfortunately for the Isle of Man men, Malcolm Levy had to head back home due to a family illness which left them one man short and due to play Poland the next day. After some discussion it was agreed that Team Manager Les Callow could fill in at number four for the remaining matches.
In the men’s match against Poland the IOM number one Thomas Whiteway managed to take a game off his Polish counterpart before losing in four. Patrick Fitzpatrick and Oscar Hill had close games but lost 3-0 which then left number four Les Callow to take on the young Polish player who was 52 years his junior! Young legs proved to be the winner but Callow had a great match and managed to get 7 points in one game. Squash is a very big sport in Poland and it was no surprise that they eventually won the tournament.
On the Friday the IOM men played Guernsey in what was the battle of the small Islands and proved to be very close. Three of the matches could have been won by either team but Guernsey proved to be the stronger on the day winning 4-0. The women played Slovenia next, coming close in every match but eventually losing 3-0. Their afternoon match was against Romania and they showed improvement again, pushing their opponents all the way with Michelle Smith taking her match to four games.
Finals day was on the Saturday and the IOM men were drawn against Belarus. Fitzpatrick and Hill both worked hard to win their matches 3-1 resulting in a 2-2 result for the men in their last match of the championships. The women’s last match was against Greece and all our women demonstrated how much they had improved over the competition with all three coming close to winning their match.
Team manager Les Callow commented “Two things stood out when you watched all the matches. One was the fact that it was so cold on court with players wrapped up in blankets waiting to play and the ball not getting hot enough to bounce and the other thing was just how much all the teams have improved.”
The Isle of Man loves playing in this event and will be back next year, hopefully much improved and with a full complement of players.
I have included some Pre Match photographs below –