European Championship 2011

Carrickmines, 16-18 September 2011

The European Association Croquet Championship was in Ireland this year, after 13 consecutive years in Jersey.  There were 20 players, but only eight countries represented: Ireland (8 players), Spain (3), Jersey (2), the Isle of Man (2), Norway (2), England, Scotland and Belgium.

The event followed its usual format, with four blocks of five players completing their games on the first day and the top four in each block going into a knockout on days 2 and 3.  This required tight time limits (two hours) for the block games, but the first three rounds of the knockout (best-of-three in rounds 2 and 3) were completed on the second day, leaving time for a best-of-five final.

Stephen Mulliner (ENG), Mark McInerney (IRE), Tony Le Moignan (JER) and Andrew Johnston (IRE) were undefeated leaders in the respective blocks, but Tony had to withdraw for health reasons, leaving Kieran Murphy (IRE) (also undefeated) to take the block winner's place in the knockout draw and allowing the last player in their block, Roar Michalsen (NOR), to get into the knockout.

My game against Stephen Mulliner in the first round of the knockout was an interesting one.  He did a TPO, but then accidentally pegged out his own forward ball, leaving both remaining balls for hoop 2.  So I had more of a chance than I might have had, but having missed a seven-yarder at his ball on the west boundary I made only one more hoop before he finished with a two-ball break from hoop 6.

Stephen then won his quarter-final and semi-final in straight games, three of the four with sextuple peels, while in the other half of the draw Mark also progressed as expected despite losing the first game of his semi-final to Andrew.

The final looked for a while as if it might be over quickly, with a Mulliner sextuple in the first game and triple in the second, but McInerney fought back to win the next two games.  The decider, however, was one-sided, going to Mulliner +26TP.  So Stephen Mulliner was the European Champion for the 12th time, and the "Mulliner sequence" was maintained as nearly as it could be given his absence from last year's event.  (The sequence consists, or consisted until 2009, of three consecutive wins by Mulliner followed by two wins by other players, repeating indefinitely.  The full record is on the FEC website.)

Also played on the last day was the final of the plate event, in which Danny Johnston (IRE) had a +3 win over Richard Griffiths (JER).

The Carrickmines Club was an excellent host for the Championship, providing fast and consistently-paced lawns (though some of the hoops were on hills) and generous hospitality.  We also enjoyed a trip to Johnnie Fox's traditional Irish pub on the first evening of the event.  Although Carrickmines doesn't have a row of flagpoles like Jersey's, the flags of the competing nations (and others) were displayed to good effect on the hedge.  Local colour was also supplied by the weather (a rapid succession of showers and sunny intervals, giving rainbows on the first afternoon) and the dogs (including Simon Williams's Rocket and Mark McInerney's Lucky in alternate colours - white and brown, not pink and green!).

Full results are on the Croquet Association of Ireland site.  Some photographs should also be appearing there, and I may add a few of my own to the present report at some point.

Fergus McInnes