DOUBLE-D CUP IS XMAS BEST BRA NONE
SQUASH may not have been the winner at the 2018 Northern Christmas Doubles - but it finished a close third behind mulled wine and mince pies.
Crafty double-D pair Derek Collins and Dylan Younger were the champions, powering into an early lead against Tony Cornell and Kieran Mahoney in the final - and they never let up.
The pace may not quite have matched the pre-Christmas Gosforth Classic - but more than adequate compensation was provided by Julie Cornell’s cheese and biscuits, and a hefty flagon of mulled wine on tap throughout.
If that didn’t improve the squash, those refreshments and a sparkling array of festive costumes helped to keep spirits high - as players and spectators alike knuckled down to follow tournament chief Clive Lucas’ strict orders to have fun - at any cost.
Michelle and Gordie Robertson’s sharing of a huge outsize jumper was one of the evening’s more romantic and touching moments (what did go on in there?), while the spectacle of Joel Birch-Machin sweating through two frenetic games in his own 34-tog version was, er, also memorable.
Squash mum Karen Bell decided to make a rare appearance on court - her scarlet Incredibles 2 - “Elastigirl” knickers providing the perfect accompaniment, we’re sure you will agree, to golden angel wings and hat.
That was enough to earn the ‘Best Costume’ award from our esteemed panel of judges. But it left her son and club champion Cai Younger fuming at his own lack of silverware in the haute couture section, since “I’ve got the same outfit on”. One can only assume that he was correctly deducted points for wearing a green elf thong which was at least two sizes too small.
Those two were seeded Number 1 and 24 on the list of players, as pre-tournament guru Dave North kept the competition fair-ish by teaming top with bottom, seeds 2 with 23, 3 with 22 and so on.
The result was three teams of four pairs, with group winners and the best placed runners-up progressing to the televised semi-final stages - where the big money was up for grabs.
Tony and Kieran were in top form in their group games, seeing off Gordie and Joel - and sneaking a nail-biter 15-14 against John Thompson and Zoe Shipsey.
On Court 1, the Cai Younger/Karen Bell pantomime somehow continued with two wins out of two (Cai all over the court and constantly the subject of Hawkeye decisions under the charge of trying too hard). But the Perfumed Assassins - Michelle Robertson and Tegan Younger, with killer instincts hidden behind a cloak of glamour - stopped them in their tracks to clinch the group.
Out on Court Three, Derek’s accurate trademark nick-kills and partner Dylan's hard-running, soft-dropping squash gave them three wins out of three to book their own spot in the last four.
Mahoney and Cornell could have been forgiven for thinking “oh no, not again” when they were paired with group runners-up John and Zoe in their semi - but they held their nerve with some quick running and consistent hitting to win again and become the first team to reach the final.
Meanwhile on Court 2, a clash of epic proportions went right to the wire between Double-D and the Perfumed Assassins of Michelle and Tegan - the boys clinching it 15-14 against their tight-driving opponents with a cheeky drive down the middle.
After some close early exchanges, Double-D’s experience of the 4-player format proved crucial in the final - either that, or Kieran and Tony were understandably more keen to get back to the mulled wine and cheese.
Thanks go to Clive and Michelle for organising things on the night, to Dave for doing the seedings and draw in advance - and to all the players for making a success of a fun event played (well, mostly) in the right spirit which always brings together players of all ages and abilities.