Belfast Telegraph

Irish title inspires Perry to go Dutch

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland squash star Madeline Perry is hoping a success at home will prove inspirational for this week's European Team Championships in Amsterdam.

Perry from Banbridge was in fine form at the weekend to claim the Irish Open title in Dublin defeating Nicolette Fernandes of Guyana 11-5, 11-9, 8-11, 11-3 in an absorbing final.

The 36-year-old Ulster woman was top seeded for what is her home event on tour and lived up to her ranking with a hard fought victory.

Now all roads lead to Frans Otten Stadion in Holland for the European Championships in which Perry will head up the strong Irish squad along with team-mates Aisling Blake, Laura Mylotte and Ciara Moloney.

The Irish team are seeded two for the event and will fancy their chances of coming through Pool B, which also contains France, Wales and the Czech Republic.

The top two qualify for the semi-final of the championships which begin tomorrow and climax on Saturday.

Former world number three Perry said: "There are some strong teams out there, but if Aisling Blake and I are playing well, we are in with a chance.

"It is great to be going to the European Championships on the back of winning the Irish Open.

"It may not have been my my home court, but it's as home as it gets to me, and winning in Ireland obviously means a lot to me."

Perry's success in Dublin was her fifth in the Irish Open. After overcoming Welsh player Deo Saffrey, the Northern Ireland ace, now ranked 11 in the world, used all her experience in the decider to defeat Fernandes by three games to one.

Perry, who recovered from a career-threatening head injury in 2007 when she was mugged in Milan, continues to shine on court and she is proving to be influential off it.

Along with all the top officials in the sport, Madeline is playing a key role in trying to ensure that squash is in the 2020 Olympics.

Previously she said: "Squash is a huge sport and to have the chance to represent my country on the world's greatest sporting stage would be amazing, not just for me, but for all players around the world."

While Madeline and the Irish women feel they have a genuine chance of winning the European Team Championships, the men, who are in division two, will be targeting a semi-final spot.

They have been drawn in Pool C with Wales and Ukraine and should win the group to progress to the knockout stages.

The men's team is Arthur Gaskin, Derek Ryan, Brian O'Brion, Stev Richardson and current under 19 international Michael Craig, who will win his first senior cap.

Craig is a 17-year-old from Northern Ireland, who has already shown in junior tournaments around Europe that he has plenty of talent and potential.

Irish squash chiefs believe by blooding him in Amsterdam that it will further enhance his development feeling that he can become a key player in the years to come.

Belfast Telegraph


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