Ireland’s standing within European Badminton received a major boost last week when its top players were to contest THREE of the finals at the Forza Irish Open.
For Ciaran and Sinead Chambers it brought the curtain down a year in which they had stormed through to their first European victory in the Lithuanian Open back in June and like so many of the Northern Ireland athletes Ciaran and Sinead are now spending the time hoping that their performances will get them to the Commonwealth Games.
Last week’s draw in the Forza Irish Open was certainly not an easy one for the Lisburn siblings, opening their challenge with a hard-earned three-setter against Przemyslaw and Magdalena Witek, winning 21-18 in the deciding set. They then had to face second seeds, Gregory Mairs and Jenny Moore, who were to go all the way and capture the title with a 21-12, 21-12 victory over the top Irish pair of Sam and Chloe Magee.
In the women’s doubles, Sinead Chambers and Jennie King were to make an early exit from the competition after winning the opening set of their first round clash against Sian Kelly and Grace Taylor but it was the English pair who were to progress, winning the next two sets.
Previously in the Welsh Open, Ciaran and Sinead were seeded fourth and recorded a straight forward 21-17, 21-14 victory over the English pair and then faced the Irish qualifiers, Paul Reynolds and Rachael Darragh, getting off to a good start to take the opening set 21-19.
However Reynolds/Darragh snatched the second 21-19 leaving the Chambers to play catch-up in the deciding set and it was a disappointing exit for the Lisburn pair.
Alpha’s Rachael Woods had to navigate the qualifiers in the Forza Irish Open and had a difficult opener against England’s Grace Taylor. She captured the set 21-15 but had the second snatched from her grasp (21-19) only to booked her passage into the second round of qualifying 21-19 where she was to find herself one set in arrears to Evie Burbridge (England).
There was little between the two players and the Hunterhouse pupil levelled taking the second 21-19 and edged through in the decider 21-18.
For the third successive match Rachael needed three sets to overcome Sonia Goncalves (Portugal), fighting back from a one set deficit to win 26-24, 21-19 with her interest in the singles ending at the hands of the highly rated fifth seed, Irina Amalie Anderson (Denmark) who went on to reach the semi-final.
Rachael renewed her partnership with Adam McAllister and began with a comfortable win over John Amond and Laura Hennessey (21-17, 21-14) before being granted a ‘walk-over’ in their opening round.
This secured them a contest against sixth seeds Mikkel Stoffersen/ Susan Ekelund of Denmark who snatched the opening set 24-22 and were to control the second half of the match to end the hopes of the young Irish pair.
In the Women’s Doubles Rachael and Rebecca drew Elena Fernandes and Lorena Usle but were unable to make any inroads to the dominance and power of the Spanish pair.
Meanwhile, sixteen players from Lisburn 2gether Pan-Disability Badminton Club competed in the Irish leg of the Four Nations Para-Badminton Series at the National Badminton Centre, Lisburn recently
The players took to court, competing against athletes from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, and did themselves and the Club proud, winning nine gold medals and eight silver medals.
In the Singles, Ross Clear (MS3), Matthew McKeag (MS4), Sarah-Louise Rea (LS1), Abbie Fusco (LS2) and Geraldine Davey (LS3) all won gold medals, while Claire O’Neill (LS1) and Briegene Wilson (LS3) both came away with silver medals.
Ben Hayward made a mark in the MD1 event, winning a gold medal with his Scottish partner Michael McCraw. While Colin O’Neill and Simon Wilson (MD2), claimed a silver medal after a hard-fought competition.
In an all Ulster LD1 final, Claire O’Neill and Abbie Fusco from Lisburn saw off their club-mate Sarah-Louise Rea, who was playing with Rebecca Ross from Bangor.
Finally, in the Mixed Doubles events, Gary Bailie and Sarah-Louise Rea (XD1) came out on top in an all-Lisburn final against Adam Smyth and Claire O’Neill. XD2 saw Ross Clear and Abbie Fusco having to settle for a silver medal against a strong English/Irish partnership of John Hooper and Rebecca Ross, while Briegene Wilson and her partner Michael Lafferty (XD3) snatched gold in the closest match of the day against Geraldine Davey and Lorcan Brady.
The Club also had two competitors in the physical disability classifications (SL3), Conor Byrne and Zoe Jefferson. Both of whom put in good performances in both singles and doubles against a very high standard of competition.