West of Ireland Open 2024

A busy day of squash kicked off at 0930 with the local amateur event in Galway.

Definitely a great addition to the PSA event, some obviously pro inspired players were giving it their all for two rounds of play before the 3pm final. It’s not an overly regular thing that the sun splits the rocks and not a puff of wind blows in the west of Ireland, so big credit to the full house of fans for filling court 1 again!

Final : Declan James 3-0 Viktor Byrtus 11-3, 11-6, 11-6 (41m)

A rock solid Declan James came out this afternoon, not giving a sniff to Byrtus who had to produce something pretty special to earn a single point. The story of the match stayed pretty consistent, any pressure Viktor could apply was met with soft, high defence from Declan. Some of the attacks we had become used to seeing from the world no.60 kept on rolling, opening space and purposefully clinical finishes.

It has to be said, Byrtus did put on a good show, got the crowd going a few times and put in a great shift! Declan was just too polished.

Both players head east to Dublin for the Irish Open in Fitzwilliam – without doubt with some fans from Galway cheering them on.

A fitting finish to a splendid week of squash in Galway.

David Noon

Semi-Finals :

What a night. Capacity crowd. Contrasting matches. Real attention from the audience. Young and old enjoying this one and there was a great buzz in the club.

The first of the semifinals ;

Viktor Byrtus 3-1 Noor Zaman 11-9, 13-15, 11-6, 11-7 (54m)

No love lost in this one, it became almost a three way match between the two players and the ref.. Byrtus was pretty theatrical in some of his reactions and movements, but on the flip side was also playing some seriously good squash.

All points were closely contested and the you’d cut the tension with a knife. After the two shared first games, the Czech man assumed control and never lost his cushion of a few points in each game to close it out. A passionate reaction, showing what it meant.

Declan James 3-0 Finnlay Whitington 11-2, 11-2, 11-7 (30m)

This was hotly anticipated. All the seats were full, even behind the seats were full of standing spectators. Finn’s skills would need to be on full display for him to do some damage here as Declan was in serious form.

Unfortunately for Finn, he was making too many errors throughout the match and couldn’t break down the consistency of Declan’s movement and quick target hitting. A lesson in why sometimes simple squash can be enough to dismantle sublime skills – if played at this ridiculous pace..

A treat for the GLTC crowd who will hopefully be in again for the final tomorrow at 3pm to see who will be crowned the Paddy Whack, west of Ireland open champion.

David Noon

Quarter-Finals :

What a week it has been so far, breathtaking squash on display from such a variety of nations boasting different styles and personalities for our club members to enjoy and be inspired by.

All players have been super approachable and have kindly given their time to talk to aspiring young talent, something our sport does so well in comparison to others.

We unfortunately lost our Irish contingent in the first two rounds, Sam Buckley showing the most promise when he went two games to one up on Viktor Byrtus in round 2 but couldn’t get over the line.

The quarter final line up featured nations facing off against each other, we had an all Pakistani match, and all English match and an all Czech match… Declan James and Daniel Mekbib was the sole match to miss the derby clash.

Noor Zaman 3-1 Muhammad Azim Khan 9-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-7 (62mins)

Two players travelling and rooming together, never easy facing off for a place in the semis! Tight all the way, lots of pressure being put on the ball, ferocious hitting from both but the youngster took it this time around, knocking out the top seed.

Viktor Byrtus 3-0 Jakub Solnicky 11-1, 11-6, 11-6 (32mins)

This was a fairly one sided affair, the shot making skills of Byrtus proving too much for Solnicky. Anything loose was very tidally cleaned up and some punishing angles low across the front were the outstanding shot for me, impressive from the former European junior champ.

Declan James 3-1 Daniel Mekbib 9-11, 11-5, 11-2 rtd

What a match this was shaping up to be. Such a shame Daniel got injured, the crowd were really enjoying it! Some electric squash, crazy athleticism and good sportsmanship came to an end with an injury to the smiley Czech man at the end of the second. He played on for the third but could not move, we wish him well and a speedy recovery.

Finnlay Withington 3-1 James Peach 11-4, 4-11, 11-3, 11-1 (35mins)

Another silky performance from a very smooth Withington. James Peach was up for this one, pushing high up the T to try deal with the ridiculously short balls Finn was putting in and using some deft touches himself to level the match at one all. But when Finn was holding, delaying and creating options with effortless ease, it became too much for James to deal with. A very enjoyable watch for the GLTC crowd.

Tantalising battles await in the semi finals, another treat for the squash enthusiasts of the west of Ireland.

David Noon