Irelands Senior Bridge team after receiving a late invitation to the World Bridge Finals cruised through the round robin and finished in 3rd place out of 22 runners in the d'Orsi Trophy.
The d'Orsi Trophy is an over 60s version of the Bermuda Bowl. Ireland had failed to qualify out of European championships when fading to 7th place late on. However there was a good chance of getting into the main draw as first reserve. However thru early September there was no white smoke.
Finally Sri Lanka withdrew and Ireland were on their way.
The Irish team of Padraig O'Briain Michael O'Brian Pat Barry Rex Anderson Adam Mesbur and Nick Fitzgibbon certainly had some pedigree but would lack match practice at this level of bridge.
Mesbur and Fitzgibbon had kept up their ferocious training regime since leaving the Irish Open setup and would still retain match fitness even two years later from their Open battles. Mesbur and Fitzgibbon had even outran the cheating German doctors to win a recent European Senior pairs event.
Barry and Anderson upon hearing of their pending trip to Chennai set about some bidding practice session with Eamon Galligan. We got through 6 or 8 training sessions of 2 hours a piece. One day we even started at 10am as Eamon had to run vugraph for Camrose trials.
Meanwhile the O'Briain brothers powered to victory in the Telscher Trophy in City North in May but there was no mention of Chennai back then. However they continued with their own preparations just in case. As I understand it the O'Briains were not even part of this prospective team back in May.
However they are definitely present and contributing right now.
So in round 20 of 21 this morning Ireland dismantled USA2 and guaranteed Quarter Final status with a full match to spare. Ireland broke Austria in Round 15 with a heavy defeat of the erstwhile 3rd place Austrians. Round 16 saw Norway defeated. Round 17 saw Mesbur Fitzgibbon take a rest as the other 4 dispatched Chile. Round 18 saw Ireland post 24 imps in the last 3 boards. The late boards historically had been Irish bridge teams weak points.
We awoke early on Saturday morning to watch proceeding on the internet .. Ireland held a 15 point lead on 9th place but wanted more. A top 3 placing would give some leverage in determining knockout opponents. Round 19 saw Ireland paste New Zealand 20-0 and climb into 3rd place.
The New Zealand bridge players are not on a par with their rugby players. Round 20 saw a possible banana skin as Ireland faced USA2 possibly one of the pre tournament favourites. However 20 imps in the last 3 boards posted a 22 imp victory and guaranteed Quarter Final status.
Ireland sat out Mesbur Fitzgibbon on round 21 and built a 44-2 lead by board 10.
Tomorrow morning at presumably 0630 Ireland time Ireland will take on the USA2 team in a 96 board quarter final. The USA2 team is made up of Denis Clerkin Jerry Clerkin Jeff Aker Doug Simson Mark Tollivar and Marc Zwerling. Clerkin would be a good Cavan Monaghan name.
Some Clerkins emigrated to USA from Cavan and Monaghan in early 1900s.
So roll on tomorrow but a 96 board match against 6 top players is not as straight forward as a 16 board match. However I have every confidence in the Irish lads. Not many come out the right side of Mesbur Fitzgibbon. The O'Briain brothers have been mainstays of Irish bridge for many years. Michael O'Briain the silent asassion. Says little but knows lots. Finally the elder statemen Pat Barry and Rex Anderson. Rex Anderson celebrated 100 caps for Northern Ireland in 2013 and was introduced for an award by Tony Forrester.
www.bridgebase.com for Ireland v USA2 at 0630 Irish time. Your only chance
to see Ireland playing live all day. Otherwise you can watch the scores coming in on
the live scoring thru the day.
Good luck to Ireland tomorrow.
Currently England are mounting the comeback against Australia in the rugby but I have already cashed out my winnings so can watch in peace.