Stephenson can’t stop the Irish number one

THE enormity of the task facing Alpha’s Tony Stephenson bidding to win the coveted Irish National

title was hardly made any easier as he found Irish No1 Scott Evans at the top of his form at the National Badminton Centre in Lisburn, having recently been crowned the Cyprus International Mens Singles Champion.

Evans who had failed to even drop a single set on his way to beating the No73 player in the world England’s Andrew Smith in the final, was also celebrating becoming the first Irishman for nigh on four decades to win the singles crown in the Irish Open in December came to Lisburn fired up to make it 8 in a row National titles, thus closing even further on former Alpha champion Michael Watt’s record of eleven national Singles titles.

Alpha’s Stuart Lightbody had the unenviable task of blocking Evans’ passage to the semi-final, going down 21-4 21-16 while Martin lo Wai Lau suffered a similar fate going down 21-8 21-13.

Alpha’s Tony Stephenson seeded No2 had a relatively easy passage through to the final stages seeing

off Adam Jermyn 21-10 21-6 and Andrew McKee 21-8 21-13 but then took some thirty-six minutes to beat Joshua Magee 21-17 24-22 and book his place in the final.

Playing on his home courts at Lisburn Stephenson could not have wished for a better start to the final against Ireland’s top singles player Scott Evans and with a little more luck could have taken the opening set but the experience of Evans saw him go one set up 21-17.

The second saw a more astute and commanding performance from Evans from the Ailesbury club taking the title 21-8.

The Womens Singles title saw Chloe Magee from Raphoe continue to show why she is developing into one of Ireland’s finest players as she won her seventh successive National title and now stands just two short of equalling the legendary Barbara Beckett’s tally of nine.

Chloe brushed aside Pam Peard 21-6 21-12, Jennie King 21-11 21-9 on her way to the final while No2 seed Sinead Chambers from the home club of Alpha was equally emphatic storming through Rachael Darragh 21-13 21-15 and Alannah Stephenson 21-6 21-11 only to find Magee in an uncompromising mood and displaying why she is enhancing her reputation with every competition she competes in.

However Miss Chambers kept the Irish No1 and defending champion on the court for just short of half-an-hour before going down 21-10 21-12.

The Womens Doubles competition was particularly keenly fought throughout with both semi-finals going to three sets. In the top half of the draw Sinead Chambers and Jeannie King were the top seeds but after winning the opening set of their semi against Alannah Stephenson and Keady Smith, the latter pair came back to level at one set all before going down 21-6 17-21 21-9 while Caroline Black and Rachael Darragh knocked out the No2 seeds Caroline O’Sullivan and Grace Webster who found themselves one set in arrears. Miss Black and Miss Darragh took the opening set 21-18 lost the second 19-21 only to come back to secure a place in the final 21-13.

In the final though the greater experience of the top seeds Chambers and King claimed the title on a 21-11 21-16 scoreline.

After coming through to knock out the No2 seeds in the Mixed doubles, spare a thought for the Tony Murphy and Jennie King partnership as their prize was a place in the final against the top seeds Sam and Chloe Magee who had failed to drop a single set and had beaten the seeded Ciaran and Sinead Chambers at the semi-final stage. It was the brother and sister Magee partnership who ran out the victors 21-9 21-10.

There was an upset in the Mens Doubles final when Scott Burnside and Conor Hickland from the host club knocked out the No2 seeds Daniel Magee and Niall Tierney 21-13 15-21 21-15 in the semi before recording a nail-biting straight sets victory over the top seeds Tony Murphy and Tony Stephenson 21-19 21-19 to claim the title.