Alpha’s standing as a major power in Ulster Badminton reached a new high last season when for the first time all the finalists in the Ulster Open were members of the Lisburn-based club, thus ensuring that all FIVE titles would be won by players from Alpha, a feat never before achieved.
At least three of the titles are guaranteed to change hands when this season’s Forza Ulster Open gets underway this weekend at the National Badminton Centre.
In the women’s singles, Rachael Woods will face top seed Lucie Corcoran in the quarter-final with the winner possibly meeting one of the country’s leading young players Clodagh Dunne from Taghmon while in the bottom half of the draw Jennie King will face the winner of Beth Stephenson and Aisling Ryan and Keri Scott could also come into contention.
Jack O’Brien tops the seedings in the mens singles but faces an opening round facing his doubles partner Curtis Presho. But having seen the defending champion Tony Stephenson in such impressive form when winning the Irish Championships recently, few would rule out the defending champion from retaining this coveted title.
Other contenders are Stephenson’s former doubles partner Tony Murphy and Norman Lau who earned a recent call-up for the Irish squad heading for Poland shortly.
The mens doubles title is certain to change hands this year with Ciaran Chambers and Ryan Stewart, beaten finalists to Tony Stephenson and Tony Murphy last year, seeded No1 while Daniel Magee teams up with Tony Stephenson at No2 while Tony Murphy will line-up with Stuart Lightbody to make a formidable partnership as No3/4 seeds in the bottom half of the draw.
The women’s doubles will also change hands this year after Sinead Chambers lifted the title with Caroline Black last year but has now teamed up again with Jennie King and this experienced pair should be too strong for all the other partnerships including No2 seeds Lucie Corcoran and Crona Rooney.
Ciaran and Sinead Chambers are seeded No1 in the mixed doubles but were knocked out by Stuart Lightbody and Caroline Black last year and saw the title go to Ryan Stewart and Keady Smith, so the experienced Chambers pair will be all the more anxious to take the title this year.