AFTER the opening 3 weeks of the Ulster Squash League Premier Division Magherafelt have to date proved a revelation, edging into second place in the league table behind league leaders Civil Service.
Magherafelt’s last match was away to Ballyearl. Ray Hogg opened up for Magherafelt at No. 3 against Stephen McAteer, but did not “come out of the blocks firing on all cylinders”. Ray looked out of sorts during the opening two games going down 2/0.
At this point, things did not look good for the Magherafelt man, however, he accidentally got a clip from his opponent’s racket and following a short injury break he came out a “new man”. Ray took the third and then a tight fourth to keep the match alive and move into a decider.
Although Ray was now starting to show some serious signs of fatigue he kept well focused and played with great determination as his opponent got increasingly nervous as he felt the match now slipping away.
Ray gave no quarter to secure the fifth game and covert a remarkable comeback to win in five games 3/2; 7/11, 6/11, 11/5, 11/8, 11/7.
With Nick Hastings unavailable, Laurence Hastings was forced into action at No. 4 against Norman Kernohan.
Laurence did not start well and it was clear from early on that his mobility was severely restricted, having not fully recovered from an earlier injury.
Laurence tailored his strategy to limiting the amount of court he had to cover and he mixed his game with lobs, drop shots and slow length.
Using these tactics he managed to develop a 9/6 lead in the second game. Unfortunately he just wasn’t able to make it over the line.
This was a bad blow for the Magherafelt player and Laurence struggled to get on terms in the third and Norman exploited his lack of mobility to the front of the court playing a series of deft boasts and drop shots. Norman took the game to win in straight games 3/0; 11/6, 11/9, 11/5.
Jeremy Hastings was on next in the evening’s top match at No. 1 against Neil Pollock. The match kicked off at “a million miles an hour” with both players playing great squash and covering an incredible amount of court.
Although Jeremy only managed to edge through in a tight opening game the game actually took a much greater toll on Neil, as Jeremy had imposed a ferocious work rate on him.
Neil dug in, showing great commitment in the second game but Jeremy became increasingly dominant and went into the third game now with complete control. Jeremy won the match in straight games 3/0; 11/8, 11/6, 11/3.
With Magherafelt now leading 2/1 in the overall match Gareth Brown had the challenging task of bringing the result home by defeating the vastly experienced Billy White.
The opening game was nip and tuck but Gareth managed to hold his nerve to sneak through in the tie breaker, 12/10. He maintained his composure and concentration to take the second, but Billy came back giving everything in had in the third. Gareth continued to play terrific squash, moving well and playing an intelligent selection of shots.
With the game in the balance at 9/9 it could have gone either way but Gareth courageously took his chances to close his “dangerous” opponent out. Gareth won in straight games 3/0; 12/10, 11/6, 11/9.
This gave Magherafelt a second consecutive victory (with bonus point), 3/1 (10:5).
Although Magherafelt have now moved into second place in the Ulster Squash Premier Division this spot will be hard to maintain as they are away to the very strong Ballynafeigh side for their next match, and may still be without Nick Hastings.