Ireland v Venezuela
Sunday 11th May 2003
at Arklow, Co Wicklow.
Ireland 0, Venezuela 9.
Sunday 11/5/03 saw the first international match between Venezuela, currently 5th in the world rankings, and Ireland at the Sports Centre in Arklow. The Venezuelan team are on a two centre trip to Europe with a trip to Belgium next on their agenda. They were led by their Association President Manuel Medina and included some of the top players in world racuetball. Notable performances at last years world championships included singles placings of 5th (Cesar Castro) and 17th (Marcelo Laprea) and a very impressive placing of 3rd in the doubles (Jorge Hirsekorn/Ralf Reinhard) only losing narrowly to Canada in the semi-finals.
Venezuela were too strong for the Irish team of Jimmy Gannon (Arklow), Pat Hanley (Dublin), Stevie O'Loan (Belfast), Anthony Butler (Clones), Tristan Hickey (Touraneena) and Gary Lynch (Belfast) and ran out winners 9-0 based on 6 singles and 3 doubles matches. They did not have things all their own way with Jimmy Gannon pushing their number 1 Jorge Hirsekorn to the wire, losing 11-10 in the tie-breaker and Gary Lynch narrowly losing the match against his counterpart Manuel Medina 15-14 : 15-13. Most impressive was the performance of the youngest Irish player Tristan Hickey (17) who won games in singles and doubles before losing out in tie-breaks. Despite the score the overall performance was impressive and Manuel Medina was generous with his praise of the Irish showing and believes that we do not have far to go to close the gap on the top teams at world level. He was also very appreciative of the hospitality shown by the Arklow club and town in general and is hoping to bring the squad back to play in the Arklow Open next year.