Munster Senior Interprovincial Champions 2010.

Wow, there's a lot to write about here so where to start.

It's being 17 years since Munster last won the Senior Interpros, which is too long.  We have come close twice in recent years.  In 1999 in Limerick and 2000 in Galway we finished joint first with Leinster.  I was lucky enough to have being part of both of those teams and when I stopped playing for a few years in 2001 it never crossed my mind that I would be part of a winning Interpro team.  

Another person who was on both of those teams and the winning team in 1993 was our non-playing captain Liam O Brien, whose experience was invaluable all weekend.  He kept us motivated, grounded, hydrated and anything else we needed, great job Liam.

To give Leinster credit they are the team to beat every year and no matter what team they select from their vast array of players they will always be favourites but favourites don't always win and this year was one of those years.

When the team was announced I felt we had a very strong team and a very flexible team in that it gave us options for singles and doubles which strengthens any team.
I know the others felt the same and that helps your confidence.  The people selected had being playing well over the summer and people were putting in a lot of individual practice sessions also and this definitely helped.
I got selected last year and while I thought I deserved it and that I was ready, when we got to Omagh I found I was nowhere near the pace.

Interpros is different to an open tournament, your mind set is different, the pressure is different and the atmosphere is different. If you lose in an open you only have to deal with your own emotions or maybe your partner but in an Interpro you have a full team counting on you and this can affect people in different ways and last year I had forgotten about this and wasn't ready for the event.

This year I think the whole team was ready for that, we were a team from first thing Thursday morning when we got on the train and we stuck together to whole weekend.
Each match was supported like it was a Davis\Federation Cup final and each player responded accordingly.  This was evident from the first round of matches on Friday. And after some great performances we beat Ulster 4-2.

Saturday started with, the home team, Leinster and we were in good spirits.  You never know what is going to happen during the course of a match and trying to predict results, especially in interpros, is never easy. 
Our first 2 singles were on court and as the first sets got going it looked like it would finish 1-1, and subsequently it did. 

The next matches on court were the number 2 singles and one person who inspired all weekend was Andrea Maughan.  I met Andrea for the first time last year and I was as impressed then as I am now.  

Our mens 2 singles was played by Paul Fitzgerald and he was like a man possessed.  Paul has the most positive, up beat attitude on court when he is prepared and he was ready for anything this weekend. So after the second round of singles we held a 3-1 lead.

As I said earlier about not been able to predict results this was the case in our 2 doubles matches, as the matches progressed Myself and Cian Blake lost the first, the women won theirs, both second sets were tight with the women having a match point and the men saving break points not to go behind on a few occassions.  

In the third set our women, Aoife O Neill and Joanne Williamson, were having a great battle with Lesley O Halloran and Aine Leonard, with all playing some fabulous tennis, but unfortunately for Munster the girls eventually lost 7-5.

 
For me one of the form players on our team was Cian Blake, my doubles partner against Leinster.  Our match swung a few times in the third and none more so than at 5-3 down in the third we had to break to stay in the match, between us we made 4 good returns and held on.  This plus the unbelieveable support from courtside helped us go on and win 7-5 in the third.

We finished the Leinster match with a 4-2 victory and this set up an afternoon of matches where the faith of the cup was in our own hands.  As it stood ourselves, Leinster and Ulster were on 8 points each and with Leinster and Ulster to face each other we knew we had a great chance.

Again, our singles players of Jamie Blake and Niamh Coveney in the first singles, and Andrea Maughan and Kevin Rea in the second singles did what was needed and gave us the best chance possible, putting us 4-0 ahead.. 

This left the 2 doubles and our girls had the perfect start, winning the first set 6-2, but Connaught weren't going to give it to them easy and after a hard fought second set and some great doubles from Aoife O Neill and Joanne Williamson they came through 7-6 in the second to edge us closer to victory.

While our last match was on, so was Ulster V Leinster ladies doubles and at this stage Ulster were leading 4-1 in matches so to be certain of victory we needed to win the mens doubles.   

Again Connaught were in no mood to hand it to us and with their mens doubles team playing very well playing, Paul Fitzgerald and I were up against it.  After 2 tough sets and a nerve wrecking end (we served for it at 5-3 and lost and then broke at 5-6 to force a tiebreak) we didn't need Leinster's ladies doubles victory, we won it on our own.

We were now Senior Interprovincial Champions for 2010, and what a feeling.  This is definitely the proudest moment of my sporting career and I couldn't have shared it with a nicer bunch of people.

Results:
Vs Ulster
Jamie Blake V Nelson Boyle 1-6, 7-5, 6-1
Niamh Coveney V Lynsey McCullough 3-6, 1-6
Kevin Rea V Adam Boyle 7-6, 6-7, 5-7
Andrea Maughan V Emily Madill 7-6, 7-6
Paul Fitzgerald\Rob Leahy V Carlos Miranda\Karl Donaldson 6-3, 6-2
Aoife O' Neill\Joanne Williamson V Julie Thompson\Alexia Russell 6-3, 6-2

Vs Leinster
Jamie Blake V Gary Kilduff 6-2, 3-6, 1-6
Niamh Coveney V Lisa Lawlor 2-6, 6-3, 7-5
Paul Fitzgerald V Steve Taylor 6-3, 6-3
Andrea Maughan V Tanya Murtagh 7-6, 6-1
Cian Blake\Rob Leahy V Mark Carpenter\Mike Johnston 4-6, 6-4, 7-5
Aoife O' Neill\Joanne Williamson V Lesley O Halloran\Aine Leonard 6-4, 5-7, 5-7

Vs Connaught
Jamie Blake V Alan McCormack 6-3, 6-4
Niamh Coveney V Aisling Towey 6-0, 6-4
Kevin Rea V Neil McLoughlin 6-3, 6-2
Andrea Maughan V Marion Hanley 6-3, 6-1
Paul Fitzgerald\Rob Leahy V Tom McGrath\Garrett Barry 7-5, 7-6
Aoife O' Neill\\Joanne Williamson V Deirdre Collins\Aoife Wilson 6-2, 7-6

Munster Women
Niamh Coveney
Andrea Maughan
Aoife O Neill
Joanne Williamson
Emma Murphy 

Munster Men
Jamie Blake
Cian Blake
Kevin Rea
Paul Fitzgerald
Rob Leahy

Non-Playing Captain
Liam O Brien