Arthur Gaskin won his fifth Irish Senior squash title last weekend. The 32-year-old from Co Carlow has lived and trained in America since 2013, and moved to Orlando, Florida, before Christmas.
Q: You won the National Championships in Dublin on Sunday, and are back on court in Orlando by the middle of the week. Is that typical of the travelling lifestyle of a squash pro?
A: Yeah, I’d originally planned to take four or five days off to rest and recover but I woke up today and felt pretty good so I might as well get back into it. My travel is predominantly around Canada, the US and Europe, with the odd trip to the Middle East and Australia thrown in there for good measure.
Q: Is that why you moved to America — to follow the big tournaments?
A: Initially, yeah. I was in the UK for about nine years but there were more and more big events over in the US and Canada. I found myself flying back and forth eight or nine times a year so it just made economic sense to move. It’s helped my game to take the pressure off. When you’re travelling, the expenses are quite high and to have the pressure of not getting to a certain stage of events made it very difficult to detach that from when you’re playing your match. You’d have that somewhere in the back of your mind.
Q: Do you make a living from prizemoney or do you have to work outside of training too?
A: I do a little bit of coaching over here, which helps. I can be focused on playing and the process, as opposed to the consequences of a win and the consequences of a loss. Prizemoney has improved but there’s still a way to go. It’s certainly not a bad lifestyle, though. It’s great to get to travel, to play a sport you love and to compete against the best players in the world. It’s an amazing life really. I could do with a few more bob, but everyone says the same thing, so that’s okay.
Q: How did you first get into the sport?
A: Like any kid, I played every sport under the sun, and I used to play tennis down at the local club. When I was 12, the tennis courts were being resurfaced and we couldn’t play, so myself and my friends gave squash a go to keep our eye in. Seeing the kids I knew going away to play for Leinster and Irish teams, I thought, ‘If I stick it out here, there are good opportunities.’ It was that coupled with the fact that it’s an amazing sport. It’s fast, intense, you have to be physically strong, there’s so many elements to it.
Q: The national final was between yourself and your Carlow clubmate Brian Byrne for the third year in a row. Why is Carlow such a hotbed of squash?
A: It used to be a lot more than it is now. Willie Hosey, who won the over-40s (national title), he must be 55 at this stage, played on the professional circuit in the 1980s and won the nationals 10 years in a row. When we were growing up, he’d visit the club every now and again and he was unbelievable. He made us all feel that we could be really good at squash if we worked hard enough. There was also Dermot O’Brien, who organised trips away for us as kids and got us exposed to playing a different style of a squash in countries around Europe. That gave me the bug for travelling and competing. It was a good way to grow up.
Q: How long have you been playing squash as your full-time job?
A: A long time! I had two years out in the middle of my career, but I’ve basically played for 11 of the last 13 years. I’m in the twilight now, and I know that, so I’m just trying to make the most of the next 18 months to two years. If I can get that and leave on my own terms, I’ll be happy. If I can get at least 18 months where I can get another couple of European Championships with Ireland and one more World Championship, I’d take your hand off for that. If I end up going longer, that’d be a bonus. That’s where I’m at in my head.
Q: What’s the proudest moment in your career so far?
A: I’ve three standout memories. When I made my first Irish senior cap, that felt amazing. Just the buzz of being part of the team, being the youngest on the team and being alongside some guys I really looked up to. I was like a sponge back then, asking a million questions and they were really good to me. I learned so much from it. After that, when I won my first National title and my first Professional Squash Association title in Qatar were really good moments. Both actually happened just as I came back after I’d stopped. There was great satisfaction knowing that I’d made the right decision and justified going back on tour full-time having spent that period of time off.
Q: Qatar sounds like a unique place to play.
A: The Middle East is big for squash. It was the Qatar Challenge Cup that I won and it was a great feeling. That was one of my first tournaments back, I came through qualifying and won six matches to get there. It felt great because physically I’d managed to get through six matches in a couple of days. I couldn’t walk for two or three days after, mind, but that didn’t really matter. I was in bits. The final finished at 6pm the flight back to London was at midnight. So, six hours later I was on an eight-hour flight to get a bus back to Bristol. It was a bit of a comedown but it would’ve been a bigger comedown had I not won!
Q: What are your aims for the year ahead?
A: My biggest focus is the Irish Open in April. I know it’s only a short-term goal but I’ve always wanted to win that before I retire, for obvious reasons. It’s the biggest event, our open title, and the only opportunity outside of nationals where you get to compete against some of the best players in the world on your doorstep. Everything I do between now and April is focused on that to be in as good a condition as I can be physically, mentally and technically. I’m just about to go back on court for a bit of practice after this too.
Q: I’d better let you back to it so. Best of luck with the training.
A: Thanks, man. I can’t wait to get back on.
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