Top Scottish Juniors aim to bridge gap to senior pros

Scotland’s leading juniors Lucy Murchie and John Meehan are relishing their return to training as they aim to catch up with the country’s top professional players …

Stories from Scottish Squash / Andy Weston

Lucy aims to bridge gap with senior pros

Scotland’s top female junior squash player Lucy Murchie says consistency will be key as she aims to make her mark against the seniors next season.

The five-time junior national champion is continuing her off-court fitness drive ahead of a return to action in the near future.

She picked up the GU17 and GU19 national titles in February having the week before produced a fine performance against then world ranked 100 Dutch ace Sanne Veldkamp at the Edinburgh Sports Club Open, losing narrowly 4-11, 11-9, 7-11, 9-11.

17-year-old Lucy followed that up by pushing fellow Scot Katriona Allen (WR107) hard, again in four games, at the Sterling Trucks Scottish Senior Nationals just before lockdown.

The results proved she’s got the potential to match-up against the professionals next season as she continues to improve her game.

 “I was pleased with how I was playing in the first few months of the year and hopefully I can get more opportunities against the senior players next season.

“I was able to up my game to the intensity of the professionals and it’s now all about maintaining these standards through an entire match.

“The more matches and practice I get against that quality of player the better for me.

“Obviously they are playing on the PSA Tour and are stronger and fitter.

“With that comes a level of consistency which, as a junior, you are aiming for as you get older and more experienced.”

Over the last few months she’s kept in close contact with her coach Jane Martin and taken part in virtual training sessions via Zoom, led mainly by Scotland’s number one player Lisa Aitken.

The Crieff youngster has also incorporated CrossFit into her off-court training regime as well as high-intensity circuit training.

 “I’ve been trying to keep as fit as I can during the time away from court and CrossFit is something new for me which I’ve found is good fun.

“Keeping connected and doing work-outs with the Ladies Senior Academy players through Zoom has been great as well and hard work.

“It’s been March since I was last on court and it will be a strange experience when we get back on.

“It will be a shock to the system I’m sure but I think all the girls are really excited at the prospect.”

Lucy returned to Crieff High School last week boosted by achieving the Higher results she was hoping for. Following her final school year she plans to study physiotherapy in Edinburgh.

 “Queen Margaret University is my preferred choice which would also allow me the option to train at Oriam (the home of Scottish Squash).

“I definitely want to keep playing when I’m at University, train hard and see where my squash takes me.”

Meehan relishing return to training at Oriam

Scotland’s top junior male player John Meehan is hoping his summer training block has paid off when he returns to court at Oriam later this month.

The University of Edinburgh student heads back to the capital in mid-August after spending lockdown at the family home in Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire.

Members of the Scottish Squash Elite squad have been back on court at Oriam, Scotland’s Sports Performance Centre, for solo practice with distance coaching permitted from the balconies.

John has been putting in the hard yards throughout the extended period away from court and is now looking forward to re-connecting with the Scottish Squash coaching team.

“I’m pretty excited to get back into Oriam,” the 18-year-old said.

“It’s been a long period away from court and just being on a squash court will be brilliant.

“Kevin Moran (Scottish Squash coach) and I made the decision to up my training during lockdown and I’ve had just one week off.

“There’s been some massive areas I’ve managed to really focus on like my physicality, strength, flexibility, movement and technical stuff.

“I’ve done a lot of ghosting in the garden and can see the difference in my movement when studying the video analysis compared to January.”

“Yoga sessions have been good as well, something I haven’t really done before which can help with strength getting around the court.

“And I’ve also been tracking my sleep patterns with Marek Anestik (sportscotland Head of Performance Physiology) which has been really interesting in terms of recovery.

“So between Markek, Liam Mitchell (sportscotland Physical Preparation coach) and the Scottish Squash coaches, we’ve tried to leave no stone unturned.

“I’m realistic enough to know that off court training is very different to competitive squash but I’m looking forward to putting into practice what I’ve worked on.”

Naturally the former Strathgryffe junior was left disappointed when his 2019/20 season was curtailed.

He won the Scotstoun Junior Gold event at the beginning of the season before a fifth place finish at the Welsh Junior Open and securing a bronze medal at the JC Lindsay Scottish Junior Open.

John also won silver at both the Scottish Under-19 and Under-23 championships.

It had set him up well for his final European Junior Championships and last month’s scheduled World Junior Championships in Australia, which were both postponed.

“I was happy with my form and was pretty gutted, especially missing out on the World and European Championships,” he said.

“I’m not sure if there will be many junior events before I turn 19 in December but at my age now I need to look forward and prepare my game to go up a level.

“So I try and look at the positives and during the time away I’ve been able to step back and think more long term about areas I need to improve ahead of the move into seniors.

“If there had been full-on tournaments I wouldn’t have got the opportunity to do that in such depth.”

The Economics student enjoyed his first academic year in Edinburgh combining studies with squash training and residing in Darroch Court Halls of Residence which homes a variety of athletes.

He’s also found a useful balance of mixing up his training between the university facilities at Pleasance sports complex and Oriam, the home of Scottish Squash.

“I’m moving into a flat this term but really enjoyed halls, sharing accommodation with fencers, rowers and runners who are trained to an international level.

“Scottish Squash put in a coach at Pleasance last year and training there with Kevin Moran in the morning then heading to Oriam in the afternoon ensured I got a great variety to my training.

“My training programme was drawn up for me around my uni timetable and the work load has been perfect.”

Stories from Scottish Squash / Andy Weston