The improvement in the play of Sudbury squash sensation Mike McCue has been noticed.
Back in May, McCue broke through in a major way at nationals, not only advancing to the semi-finals of the Canadian Open Men’s Squash Championships, but also vanquishing Andrew Schnell and playing his way into the title match for the very first time in his career.
Combined with the results from the Squash Canada Men’s Trials in Montreal last week, McCue’s performance was enough to earn him one of four berths on the Canadian entry to the 2017 Men’s World Team Championships in Marseille, France next month.
While his spot on the team, alongside Schnell, national champion Nick Sachvie and Shawn De Lierre, did not constitute a surprise given his play in recent years, the additional stress of trials ensured that McCue would breathe a well deserved sigh of relief when the formal announcement was made on October 3rd.
“I knew I was in a position to make the team, but you have to perform in the matches you’re expected to win, maybe pull off an upset and hope all of the other results go your way as well,” said the graduate of Lockerby Composite. “We had been thinking about it all summer, and it’s still early in the season, so a lot of us are not at our very sharpest yet. It was a little scary, really.”
“In the end, I performed as expected and made the team with a little room to spare.” McCue picked up victories over David Baillargeon and both Shawn and Jason De Lierre in Montreal, more than enough success to offset setbacks at the hands of both Andrew and Graeme Schnell.
“It solidified the hierarchy, to some extent,” explained McCue. “The more consistent results you get at that higher level, the more confidence you get in yourself. Some of the other guys give you a little more respect and maybe play you differently than they did in the past.”
Technically, this represents the second time that the pride of Northern Ontario has been named to the World Team lineup. In late 2015, the event was scheduled for Egypt. But with many safety concerns arising, a pair of players named to Team Canada opted to back out, allowing McCue to step in as an alternate entry.
In the end, it made no difference as the tournament was cancelled completely due to the large number of countries that simply could not justify the risk in sending their athletes to the Middle East at that time.
While some of his teammates have already garnered similar international completion via FISU and Pan Am Games and such, the trip to France is a whole new experience for the 24 year old Sudburian. “This will be my first time actually playing for Canada, representing my country at a team event,” he stated.
“It’s considered the biggest event in world squash, along with the individual world championships. All of the best players in the world will be there. It means so much more representing your country. Every squash fan in Canada will be following back home. There’s pressure with that, but it’s also a massive honour.”
A total of 24 countries will gather at the sale Vallier from November 26th through to December 3rd, as Canada looks to improve upon its 11th place finish in 2013. “We’ll probably be seeded between 9th and 12th,” acknowledged McCue. “We’re a couple of levels off the very top teams – England, Egypt, France. They all have three players each in the top 15 in the world.”
“As a team, Canada has great depth. All four of us are ranked within about 20 places of each other on the PSA (Professional Squash Association) Tour rankings.” By contrast, establishing any kind of personal goals can be more than a little tricky. “It really depends on which countries you end up playing and which matches you end up playing,” said McCue.
Effectively, the matches are best of three affairs, with countries selecting three of their four athletes to compete in each match. Although not completely confirmed, it appears as though the format will consist of eight pools of three teams each, with the top two in each pool moving on to championship flight and the bottom team playing in a consolation round.
“You’re just hoping to perform to the level that you know you can,” said McCue. “You’re hoping not to be in awe of the occasion.” With just over a month remaining before their departure to Europe, the well spoken young man who honed his skills, in his youth, through the coaching of Brian Clarke at the Sudbury YMCA, already has a clear-cut game plan to address his pre-tournament training needs.
“In terms of the physical training, it will be short and sharp anaerobic training,” stated McCue. “Squash wise, I’ll be focusing more on the short game, attacking shots, being aggressive, just training everything fast and intense and taking the volume down from what you might do in the off season. Leading into a big tournament, you’ll put in less time, but likely at a higher intensity.”
Sounds like a recipe for success for Mike McCue, one which now has him being noticed, both nationally and internationally.