The 1970s and 1980s were an incredible time in the sport of squash in Ireland. The squash scene in Donegal Town was vibrant and clubs were filled with players looking to make it to the big times. During the 80s and 90s, it has been said that, conservatively, there were around 1,200 players playing squash.
Now, there are only a handful of squash players in the entire county, approximately 2 or 3 — so, where have all the players gone? Because of the nearly non-existent numbers, there are no active clubs in Donegal anymore where the player count once peaked at 700 members in two different clubs in 1985. At the time, they played an Ulster Squash League where there were 200 teams.
For one, players would practice at the two clubs in Donegal before the first closed down. Then, in 2000, Downtown closed after property developers came in. From there, the remaining players were getting older and the youth in Donegal had no opportunity to join the game of squash — no clubs, no community squash teams, and no introduction into the game.
From 2000 and on, players began to age and squash players’ partners began to die off. The players who remained had to start playing in other counties in Ireland, in locations such as Brooke Park, Strabane, Derry, and Castlederg.
A Generation of Squash
It seems to be that in Donegal, Ireland, the game of squash lasted for only a single generation from the 70s to when it died out in 2000 with the aging players.
Some of the fault is due to developers coming in and essentially tearing down the only squash centers available for new, young players to take an interest in. Another cause that may have contributed to the demise of squash in Donegal is that it may simply be a generational divide. Squash could just be a sport that took off at the right place at the right time, only to disappear a generation later due to lack of interest in the county.
Regardless, the lack of coaching and structure available in Donegal certainly attributed to the dying of the sport. New centers focus on Gaelic football, soccer, rugby, hurling, athletics, cycling, and more, which are now all very popular. Unfortunately, it looks as if squash has lost out.